Hartford’s Largest Charity BBQ Event
Local small business owner Guy Neumann, Founder of GN Construction LLC, grew a backyard BBQ party into a charitable event that draws thousands of people to Hartford and has raised more than $150,000 since 2009.
The 10th Annual Hartford Rib Off includes a kick-off party, Kansas City Barbeque and New England Barbecue Society competitions, live music, and family fun. The event will take place at Hartford’s Riverside Park June 14 and 15, 2019 with 100% of the event’s proceeds supporting local charities: MARC Community Resources, Mayor Mike’s Foundation for Kids, and The Hartford Rib Off Scholarship Fund.
MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price got some background from Guy about the how the event came to be.
NAN PRICE: Tell us about the evolution from having a backyard party to creating an annual charity event.
GUY NEUMANN: It started in 2009 as a backyard BBQ at my home in the West End of Hartford. We asked friends to donate and, as the night went on and more people contributed, we realized we’d covered the costs of the party. We had an extra $1,000 and decided to donate it to Organized Parents Make a Difference, where some of us were doing some volunteer work.
The event was so successful, we decided to do it again the next year. Following that event’s success, I gathered a board of directors and we formed the Hartford Rib Off as a 501(c)(3). We are volunteer based. Growing the event and giving back to local charities became a passion for me—and for others. Every year, more people come out of the woodwork to help me and support the event. The generosity I’ve gotten from people is amazing. I never expected it.
The event is really for the community by the community. I think we’ve touched some lives and helped some people. I always believe you make bigger changes on a micro basis then a macro basis. I look for causes where I can impact an individual to change their world and change the world around them.
NAN: As a small business owner, you’ve already gone through the experience of launching a business. Was it a lot different for you to start this nonprofit organization?
GUY: I’ve launched several businesses. I worked in corporate America doing advanced planning on the insurance side of things for a few years after college, so I have some knowledge about the corporate structure and business planning in general, which was helpful in the process.
I know what it’s like to run a business. I’m comfortable with income statements, setting up QuickBooks, tracking accounts and expendables, and things along those lines. I also know a lot of people in many industries, so that helps. It was just a matter of good, old-fashioned audacity. Just ask.
NAN: Why Hartford?
GUY: I love Hartford. If I’m going to live in Hartford and raise my children in Hartford, I’m going to do my best to be good to Hartford. I think Hartford could use it. My goals with this event are to promote community, promote Hartford, and promote a cause.
This event draws people and families to Hartford from the suburbs. They’re coming to use some of the infrastructure that’s free and available on a daily basis. That’s an important part of the event for us—and we accomplish it. People tell us they’ve had a great day in Hartford
To some degree, employers use the event as part of their recruiting tool. They talk about the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz; local sports teams the Hartford Yard Goats and Hartford Athletic, which are involved in our event; and they can also mention in June we have the Hartford Rib Off, it’s a professional Kansas City barbecue event and it’s the only one in Greater Hartford.
Barbecue is a big thing in this country. It’s all American. For recruiting purposes, it’s nice to know that this part of America is also present here in Hartford.
NAN: Community is key to an event like this.
GUY: Yes. We’ve been fortunate to have community sponsors that help with the event: 102.9 The Whale, Radio 104.1, Miller Lite, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Pig’s Eye Pub, and GN Construction LLC. This year’s presenting sponsor is Hall’s Market of West Hartford.
I believe people can make big changes in the world around them by engaging the community. I couldn’t be where I am today without the team that helps me and the generosity of people who hear the word “charity” and want to get involved.
It’s a matter of tapping into that. You can help people feel empowered to make a change. That’s kind of how we built this little movement. People just want to help. In this case, they give a day of volunteering and it’s a fun day for them. They end up wanting to help the next year. It’s great to see the community so involved in an event that gives back.