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Friday, August 6, 2021

Community Cookoff Cookout Last Big Bash of the Summer in Riverview

This story appeared in the Kingsport Times-News, August 5, 2021 by Calvin Sneed.  Story and pictures copyrighted.

With school starting back up in Kingsport, the letter 'F' won't look bad on a community report card right now.  That's because this coming Saturday, it will stand for 'F'riendship, 'F'amily, 'F'un, 'F'ellowship and 'F'ood.

The 5th annual Community Cookoff Cookout is being held at the V.O. Dobbins Community Center on Saturday, August 7, 2021 from 4 PM to 10 PM in the ballfield on MLK Drive at Louis Street.  That's right beside the Riverview Splash Pad.

"It's the last big outdoor community bash of the summer," says organizer Ryan Smith.  "We do this every year because most of us were raised with lots of neighborhood cookouts during the summer and we all ended up eating a little bit at each house just about every day.  We were already used to everybody else's cooking, then school started back up and we were back to eating at home.  On Saturday, we'll give you that last community taste of summer once again."

This year's Community Cookoff Cookout begins by commemorating August 8th, the historic celebration of Emancipation Day in Tennessee during which President Andrew Johnson freed his personal slaves 158 years ago.  
After cancellation last year because of COVID-19, the theme for this year's cookout is an all-out tribute to the Riverview food legends that many folks grew up with.  "We'll have fried baloney sandwiches, mild pepper hamburgers and fried potatoes with onions just like Rev. (Curtis 'C.E.') Edge used to make at 'Edge's Place,' says Smith (Edge's Place was a popular neighborhood eatery on Lincoln Street). 

"More recently, 'Sarge's Place' was also a favorite restaurant because of Army veteran Master Sgt. James 'Sarge' Swafford's Jeep burgers and Tank burgers," he says.  "I'm going to make that 'love dust' special sauce invented by Rev. Edge that he passed down to Sarge to use in his restaurant.  Then, there was the barbeque chicken and ribs on the backyard grills of many homes in the community on weekends.  And we haven't forgotten the fried fish... years later, whiting fish is still one of the most-liked types of fish around.. we'll also have plenty of that," Smith says.

Baked beans will also be served, along with other items like salad, mac-n-cheese, cowboy beans, corn on the cob, and three different kinds of potatoes, mashed, fried and chips.

Two years ago for the Cookout, Smith says his team prepared more than 700 hamburgers, wings and hotdogs.  This year for the hundreds of people expected, it's no different.

"Come hungry," he laughs.

Among the games, door prizes, bike giveaways, free haircuts for the boys and hair styling for the girls, plus the DJ music in the ballfield, the Cookout also features an attraction for the kids from three years ago that nobody expected would become popular.  It's a homemade 100-foot water slide, an idea that Smith had seen on social media.

"Two years ago, all we needed was some baby oil, water and a roll of plastic that we stretched out," he says.  "Before we knew it, children were running and sliding on it, there were soap suds all over the place and the kids loved it.  We knew we had something going when all the children from the nearby Splash Pad came over and started sliding.  Once they figured out how it worked, there was no stopping them.  We had no idea we would empty out the Splash Pad with something we just made ourselves.  It was an instant hit, so we're bringing it back for the children."

Sponsors for this year's Community Cookoff Cookout include Central Baptist Church, Full Gospel Mission Church, Mt. Zion Holiness Church, St. Mark's United Methodist Church, the Children of the Community neighborhood group, the New Vision Youth, the 2 Do Better group, the Appalachian African-American Cultural Center, Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium, KHRA, South Central Kingsport Community Development Corporation, the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, Kingsport Parks and Recreation, Kingsport Fire Department, Clark Funeral Chapel and Cremation Service, the Tennessee-Virginia Fellowship against Racism, Taylor's Plumbing and Home Services, Jeff's Pipe and Muffler, Burlington, Southern Dwellings, Turner Paving and Sealing, EAV Express AV, DJ Gimme Jimmy, Rachel's Cleaning Service, Carew Cuts Barber Shop, Southern Roots Salon, Crown Cutz Academy and the Taylor-Made Barber Shop.

Local restaurant sponsors include the Texas Roadhouse, Chili's, the Hot Dog Hut on John B. Dennis, El Loco Taco Taqueria, Buffalo Wild Wings, O'Charley's, Applebee's, Papa John's Pizza, and the Waffle House.  Smith says the list of sponsors keeps growing every year.  "They love to be involved in the Kingsport community," he says.

While last year's cookout was postponed because of COVID-19 and from the phone calls and emails he's been getting, Smith says Kingsporters are anxious to get together and celebrate the end of summer before school kicks back into high gear.

"It won't be long until everybody is forced back inside by the cold weather," he says. "COVID kept us away last year, and we're coming back to continue what's become an annual tradition in the city."

By the way, add one more word to friendship, family, fun, fellowship and food on Saturday.  
'F'ree.  The Community Cookoff Cookout is free.  The food, the activities... everything on site is free of charge.

"Everybody is invited to come out to the party for Summer 2021's last big bash," says Smith.