Eckert's (951 South Green Mount Road, Belleville, Illinois; 618-233-0513 or www.eckerts.com) is getting an early start on Father's Day by kicking off its inaugural DadFest at 3 p.m. today.
This morning, its barbecue competitors were already setting up and smoking in the parking lot. Angie Eckert, vice president of retail operations for Eckert's, explained that the twenty competitors have come from across the Midwest to participate in the event, sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society. Several competitors will also be selling barbecue.
Inside the giant country store, Eckert's will be hosting a bunch of man-friendly free classes and demonstrations. At 4 p.m., Uncle Joe from Ina, Illinois, will be talking barbecue sauces. He'll be followed at 6 p.m. by a beer- and cheese-pairing class.
Saturday's classes begin at noon with Eckert's head chef, Darrin Stein, talking about barbecue. At 2 p.m., they'll switch gears for a wine tasting.
Not enough food? Eckert's deli will have carry-out barbecue and sides, and both of its restaurants will be serving through the events.
Aside from food, Eckert's will have an antique tractor display, a free Bottle Rockets concert at 8:30 tonight, kids' carnival rides and farm animals.