Annual Rotary BBQ in the Park continued in new format despite COVID-19 pandemic, extra safety precautions implemented

Annual Rotary BBQ in the Park continued in new format despite COVID-19 pandemic, extra safety precautions implemented

Photo Credits: TESSA KOGA / AGGIE

Rotary BBQ offered “to-go” meals to follow social distancing protocol, proceeds donated to local nonprofits

The Rotary BBQ in the Park event has been an annual staple in the Davis community for 42 years. So when the shelter-in-place order in Yolo County was extended to May 31, members of the Rotary Club of Davis found a new way to continue this annual tradition.

President of the Davis Noon Rotary Club Dave Scheiber explained that the annual BBQ in the Park event is the biggest fundraiser that both the Davis Noon Rotary Club and Davis Sunrise Rotary Club put on together. It takes place every year on the third Saturday of May in Central Park, and there is a wide array of booths, live music, auctions, family-friendly activities and barbecue. 

Greg Phister, a member of the Davis Noon Rotary Club, said club members used to prepare the barbecue themselves, but when the event became more popular, Tommy J’s Grill & Catering took over the preparation. 

For this year’s 42nd commencement of the event, the format of the fundraiser had to be changed in order to comply with social distancing rules which prevent large gatherings.

Scheiber said those who wanted to pick up barbeque filled out an online order form in advance and, on Saturday, May 16 at 5 p.m., they drove to the pick-up location and received their meal without spending time in the park. A delivery option was available as well for those who were unable to pick up their meals themselves. 

“We put that together within a week and it went out without a hitch,” Scheiber said. “It was a little different and it was still a success, so that’s good.”

The event’s volunteers also made sure to take extra safety measures such as being properly spaced apart and wearing protective equipment like gloves and masks. Despite the new format, the event went smoothly, and the Rotary Club of Davis was able to sell 630 meals. The proceeds benefited local nonprofit organizations.

Head of fundraising for Davis Sunrise Rotary Club Meaghan Likes said it was a shame “the tradition will be broken because of coronavirus,” and that it was important for the clubs’ members “to find a way to continue — to find some normalcy in this new environment.”

Likes also explained how local nonprofit organizations such as Yolo Crisis Nursery, Yolo Food Bank, Meals on Wheels, Suicide Prevention, Progress Ranch, Winters Farm to School and Empower Yolo — to name a few — were facing a higher demand in services because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The fundraiser helped cover the costs for some of these in-demand services.

Scheiber also said that since people are ordering take-out from restaurants now anyway, the continuation of this fundraiser would give people an outlet to donate to those in need. 

“We wanted to support local business,” Scheiber said. 

Likes credited her other co-organizers — Phister and Brodie Hamilton, also from the Davis Sunrise Rotary Club — for helping her plan the BBQ and expressed hope that Rotary Club can be a model to other nonprofits during these challenging times.

“The Rotary motto is ‘service above self,’” Likes said. “Rotary is absolutely here to serve our community whether that’s local or global.”

The official website for the Rotary Club of Davis provided further insight for the goals of the organization.

“Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide who provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world,” the website reads.

Since the regular meetings were canceled due to the shelter-in-place order, meetings are now held via Zoom for both the Noon Rotary Club and Sunrise Rotary Club. In terms of future fundraisers, Scheiber said they will have to be resourceful. 

“It’s going to be harder for fundraisers, but I think we can come up with creative ways — just like we did for this Rotary BBQ — to still accomplish our goals,” Scheiber said. “We’ll cross that bridge when it comes.” 

Phister added one final comment on this issue. 

“Many people have been hurt by COVID-19 and shelter-in-place — it’s traumatic,” Phister said. “Now, more than ever, we need people to help out.”

Written By: Jelena Lapuz — city@theaggie.org