To help a girl with leukaemia, Norman Wells turned to brisket
“You can’t eat brisket by yourself,” said Josh Ferguson. “It’s way too much meat for one person. It inherently brings people together.”
When Brandon Glover’s two-year-old daughter, Alexa, was diagnosed with leukaemia in July, the whole town of Norman Wells wanted to find a way to help.
Glover works for the Sahtu’s North-Wright Airways as a structural technician, spending six weeks at a time in Norman Wells before returning home to his family in Atlantic Canada.
Ferguson and colleagues at North-Wright were shocked to hear how Alexa had been rushed to the Janeway children’s hospital in St John’s, Newfoundland, and how Glover was told his daughter had come within 30 minutes of losing her life.
With two and a half years of chemotherapy ahead, Ferguson and friends – who had been toying with the idea of a brisket night – diverted their attention to the Glover family’s cause.
“We realized that instead of being just for fun, we could make a brisket competition and sell plates to the community as a fundraiser,” Ferguson, who moved to the town last year, told Cabin Radio.
“Especially up here, there’s not good food everywhere,” he said. “You can cook it at home, but going out to get restaurant-quality food is not really that easy.”
Northern Fancy Meats and Norman Wells’ Ramparts and Northern stores donated meat and other supplies. The group soon had 60 lb of brisket, 60 lb of fries, 130 buns and 20 lb each of beans and slaw, almost all of it acquired for free.
Posters appeared around the town announcing Wells Brisket Fest 2022 would be held on Saturday, August 21.
When people began stopping him at the Northern store to ask about the event, Ferguson realized: “This is going to be a big thing.”
On the day, MacKinnon Park swelled with a lineup ahead of Brisket Fest’s 6:30pm start. Plates would be sold for $20 with a donation jar for anything else anyone could give.
“We sold out within 15 minutes,” said Ferguson.
“We started to feel really bad because more people showed up than we had food for. By the end, we had changed our price to by-donation and just had smokies and hot dogs left. Folks who came out for brisket maybe got a bite of brisket and some hot dogs and fries.”
In all, Brisket Fest raised $6,000 for the Glover family. Of that, $2,500 came from food sales and the rest – more than half of the total – came from additional donations left by residents.
The money moves the family closer to an initial goal of $20,000 set in an online fundraiser.
“I have no words,” said Glover, who helped cook fries at Brisket Fest, when asked for his reaction to the event’s popularity.
“The only thing I can say is thank-you to everybody. It was a great time. It was really popular and I’m really grateful that the town of Norman Wells showed up.”
Brisket Fest was such a success that Ferguson and friends hope to organize a follow-up next year. While the planning is preliminary at best, he envisages bringing up a butcher to sit on a panel of judges with all residents eligible to enter the cook-off.
“We plan to do this every year and we’ll choose different charities,” he said. “Barbecue is such a fun thing. It really gets people going and people come out.
“I moved up here a year ago and I’m just loving the North. I’d love to run this every year and it’d be great if it could turn into something that continues past my time here.”