COVID-19 forces Great Steak Cook-off to change plans

COVID-19 forces Great Steak Cook-off to change plans

COVID-19 has led to many making adjustments to how they do things. The Great Steak Cook-off, the annual fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club of Bay City and Matagorda County, was no exception.

Postponed from its usual March date because of the coronavirus pandemic, the event will now take place May 30 in a very different way.

Usually a sit-down dinner at the Bay City Civic Center, the event will now be a curbside drive-thru dinner for those who have tickets at the Wharton County Junior College Bay City Campus located at 4000 Ave. F in Bay City.

The live and silent auction, which is also a part of the event, will depend upon online bidders this year. Those that want to bid on silent auction items ahead of the event can do so starting at 8 a.m. May 25. Those that want to bid on items can go to

The live auction, along with the announcement of the winners of the cookoff, will be streamed live online and bidders can submit bids online also at A link on how to see live auction will be available soon.

Janet Peden, president of the board for the Boys and Girls Club of Bay City and Matagorda County, said making changes to a planned event took some thinking when gatherings of large crowds were not allowed.

“So, we got together and said, ‘What options do we have?’ Cancel and resume next year? Well, that wasn’t an option. We had already raised some money and sold reserved tables to a lot of people that come to this every year,” Peden said. “So, we said ‘How can we have this in a very safe manner?’”

The first task was to find out if the cooking teams who had already paid their entry fee or were sponsored by someone if they were willing to still participate in a May event.

“So, we approached them and said ‘If we can figure out a way to do this, would you still be interested in cooking or would you be willing to cook? And if yes, do you want your steaks to be judged like we do this normally where there is a winner of the best steak trophy?’ Most teams said, ‘yes we want to be judged,’” Peden said. “That’s one of the things that makes this fundraiser unique is how much those guys love competing against each other for nothing more than bragging rights.”

Originally, 19 teams signed up to compete, but some dropped out, Peden said. Those that dropped out allowed organizers to keep the entry fee as their contribution the fundraiser.

“Right now, we have 16, and that could end up being more like 14 or 15 considering that we are not going to serve as many steak dinners as we typically do, it will not be hard for fewer teams to cook the number of steaks we need,” she said.

The size of the teams was also adjusted from four people to two so that they have the ability to space six feet apart as much as possible.

The event also needed an area large enough to allow the cooking teams to spread out, but also accommodate drive-thru traffic as to not block highway traffic.

“The reason we chose the WCJC parking lot is because there is a way to get cars off of south 60 turning right at a stop light. We were afraid at the civic center that cars might stack up on 35 and cause a dangerous situation. There is plenty of parking lot out there, but it was the traffic flow we were concerned about,” Peden said.

While reconfiguring the event because of COVID-19 was challenging enough, organizers had another hurdle added – a meat shortage. HEB, one of the event sponsors, usually is able to supply the event with the meat it needs but the shortage changed that. Even with planning to buy less meat and freezing it ahead of the event, Peden said the meat manager at HEB said it would be June before he would be able to get enough ribeye steaks for the event.

Not deterred, Peden was able to find 156 ribeye steaks from another supplier that she is keeping stored in multiple freezers of multiple friends. She also has a promise for 50 more steaks for the competition.

“Some people are not going to come pick up a steak curbside. They would have come to the event. I can’t predict how many of those won’t come through. So, it’s a number I am really juggling right now to see if we think we have enough steaks to feed the people who have tickets in hand,” she said. “We made the decision not to sell any more tickets because of the uncertainty of whether or not we could get the steaks. So, we have to do what circumstances are dictating.”

Greater Giving is an online bidding service that the Boys and Girls Clubs use to do their online auctions. Last year, the Boys and Girls Clubs used the online auction service to collect bids for its silent auction. This year for the live auction, because people cannot be present to bid, folks can bid on those items online as well.

“Anybody, whether you have a ticket to get a steak or not, can bid. You don’t even have to live in Texas if you want to bid on any of these items,” Peden said.

She said one year she had a friend that lives in Manhattan that won a bid for University of Texas football tickets.

 “The reach is incredible. It goes far beyond your attendees,” she said.

A lot of items for the both the silent and live auctions have been donated by local businesses and individuals.

Added just recently were travel packages to locations in Texas. Peden said with the uncertainty of people wanting to travel to destinations by air because of COVID-19, organizers wanted to include destinations that were drivable. Trips to enjoy Austin, San Antonio, Fredericksburg and a winery excursion to Florence, Texas were recently added to the silent auction items.

Peden said those travel packages can be sold to five different purchasers, so if you miss out on getting a trip, you have another opportunity to get one.

The Boys and Girls Club of Bay City and Matagorda County is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Proceeds go to support the many programs it provides young people in the community, including afterschool programs and programs during the summer.

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