By Emery Lay
For the Opelika Observer

Rain or shine, Aug. 14 will be a day for grilling, eating and judging. The Elks Lodge will soon be hosting its first-ever Battle of the Burger. The event will be located in Auburn on 1944 Opelika Road at the Auburn-Opelika Lodge #1834, home to Robert Trent Jones (RTJ) Grand National golf course.

“We are more than just a bar,” said John Findley, exalted ruler at the Auburn Elks Lodge location. “We are a civic, charitable organization. We took on Camp ASCCA as an Elks state major project several years ago. Different lodges will do different things; We’re gonna do this Battle of the Burger and that will raise some money that we will forward to Camp ASCCA, just to help them with whatever they wanna do.”

The cookoff will begin at 10:30 a.m. At 1:00 p.m., a select panel of secret judges will taste-test the burgers to see who has the best technique and recipe in town. The event will conclude shortly after, around 1:30 p.m., once the winner has been announced. In addition, the Tiki Hut will be open during the entirety of the event to serve cold drinks and sodas for purchase.

“We are inviting local businesses, citizens and Elks Lodges from around the state to participate,” Findley said. He emphasized that anyone from the public is welcome.

The winner of the battle will receive award prizes, and there will be a trophy for the runner-up. The public can also purchase a ticket for $1, taste ¼ of a burger and leave their purchased ticket with the respective grill master. Additional tickets can be purchased to create an entire meal. At the end of the event, the team with the most tickets garnered will win the honorable “Crowd Favorite” award in the form of a trophy.

All proceeds from the event will go to the Alabama Elks State Major Project, Alabama’s Special Camp for Children and Adults (ASCCA). ASCCA, which is open year-round, provides camps for children and young adults with disabilities throughout the state of Alabama.

The website reads, “Beginning in 1976, Camp ASCCA has been a nationally recognized leader in therapeutic recreation and is known throughout the world for its superior quality services. Providing camping experiences for children and adults with disabilities, Camp ASCCA is open year-round. Within its barrier-free environment, Camp ASCCA offers 230 wooded acres on the shores of beautiful Lake Martin in Alabama.”

The Elks Lodge of Auburn is just one of 22 in the state. Currently, it supports 85 scouts — a boy scout troupe, a cub scout pack and a girl scout troupe. The lodge has also provided medical equipment to Mercy Medical, kitchen equipment to Christian Care Ministries and a Christmas party in 2020 for the children of Big House.

After receiving a grant from the Elks National Foundation, the lodge has been able to pour into the veterans at Tuskegee, providing them a banquet with goodies, music and speeches from the mayors of both Auburn and Opelika. It was able to continue this tradition in a socially-distanced manner during COVID-19. On their 4th of July Barbecue, the lodge also raised money to go toward the $5,000 scholarships it hands out each year to the students of Southern Union.

With the funds gathered from the Battle of the Burger event, the Elks Lodge of Auburn hopes that it will be able to further benefit and provide for those with disabilities through its support of ASCCA.

 To register for the Battle of the Burger, contact John Pruitt (334-750-6003, or Julie Stanley (334-524-0574, Registration is $25 and closes on Aug. 2. Each ticket will reserve a 15 by 15-foot spot for the contestant to compete on; Teams must bring their own “fixins”.

“Come on out and vote for the best burger!” Findley said.