The grills, on loan from Hecky’s BBQ, were fired up at around 11 a.m., and the crowd was already gathering when serving began at noon in the fourth annual The Great Evanston Police vs. Fire Grill Off. The event was organized by the Evanston Police and Fire Foundation (EPFF) and held this year on July 16 in the parking lot of Valli Produce.

For a donation of $7, guests received an EPD Uniform Bleu Burger on a pretzel bun and an EFD Where There’s Fire There’s Smoke burger on toasted ciabatta, chips, a cold drink, and a chit with which to vote for the favorite. The PD Grill Off team was led by Sgt. Dennis Prieto with Jason Hayes leading the FD cooks, “both masters of the culinary arts,” opined one of the organizers.

Within 90 minutes, some 422 burgers had been cooked and served. The final tally was 98 votes for the bleu burger and 103 for the smoke burger. Donations, tallied totaled some, $1,500, said Steve Lemieux-Jordan, who coordinated the event for EPFF. 

Valli Produce “donated the parking lot space, the food, drinks, coals and much more,” Mr. Lemieux-Jordan said.

Radio station WCGO 1590 AM donated on-air advertising and sent representatives to the grill-off. The U.S. Army provided a climbing wall for children and parked some of its vehicles nearby. 

Mr. Lemieux-Jordan said the donations from Valli Produce and the citizens of Evanston showed “a truly generous show of support for our fantastic first responders and our community at large.” In his wrap-up of the event, he thanked Parks and Recreation Director Lawrence Hemingway and Second Ward Alderman Peter Braithwaite, and “all the volunteers who put in many, many hours of their time into creating a very successful event. … It certainly is a tremendously good feeling to know that we can rely on ‘the City’ and those who work for it, to step up and help EPFF support the women and men who put their lives on the line every day.”