Backyard BBQ Blast

Amateur grillers
take contest (somewhat) seriously

Cincinnati’s Sena family has found its niche
as formidable barbecue cooking competitors

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(August 2011) – For any amateur competition cook, having a good time is naturally part of the process. For the Sena sisters, it’s also a family affair when they enter a friendly neighborhood cookoff such as the Madison Courier Backyard BBQ Blast at the Madison Ribberfest.
“We all look forward to it. We have a great time there,” said Traci Sena, 47. Originally from Cincinnati, Traci and her younger sister, Gina, 41, have formed a barbecue cooking team known as Little Sister’s BBQ.

Nick and Tracy Sena

Photos courtesy of Stephen Ossege

Sibling cooks Nick and Tracy Sena
say they enjoy the family rivalry
when it comes to barbecue cooking.
Below, Don Sena shares a laugh
during the cooking contest.

Don Sena

Three generations of the Sena family make up four different barbecue cooking teams that used to be known collectively as the Sena Family Smokers. Traci Sena said she comes from a large Italian family that loves to cook and “loves to eat.”
Additional family teams include Nick’s Pit, Sena Family BBQ (brother Don and his nephews) and the Next Senaration (Don’s sons and their cousins).
The Backyard BBQ Blast amateur cookoff is held on Vaughn Drive between West and Mulberry streets. It opens at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 20, for cookers, who must bring their own barbecue rig and cooking setup.
Prizes are awarded for the top three places in the following categories: ribs, pork, beef, poultry, game/other meats (rabbit, goat, venison, etc). Special prizes are awarded for the Best Original Sauce, Best Original Spice Rub and the Best Team Awards.
Little Sister’s BBQ won the Best Team Award at last year’s event. This is the only competition Little Sister’s BBQ enters, said Sena.
“This is it for us. We like the area and have such a good time. We have gotten to know the other teams, also. We look forward to it every year because we have such a great time there,” she said.
The Sena brothers and sisters have a lot of fun competing with each other and the other competitors. “It’s fun. We’d do it even if we didn’t win,” said Sena.
Even so, three months after a competition, Sena likes to take a look at her scores and see if she has beaten her brothers’ scores. There are seven boys and four girls in her family.
All of her siblings compete on an amateur level. Sena said she doubted that any of them would ever compete professionally in barbecue cooking events.

Sena judging

Photo courtesy of Stephen Ossege

Nick Sena (left) and brother Matt
Sena prepare their entry to be judged
in the Backyard BBQ Blast.

The competition among family members garners “bragging rights for us,” said her brother Don Sr. “It’s the only barbecue competition we really do because it’s so much fun.” The first year the family entered the contest together they won an award for Best Team.
The family also started the tradition of giving out samples of their efforts.
In 2009, the family took first place in chicken with their jerk recipe. The year before, they won Best Overall Sauce, by which Sena was surprised because “we used a non-traditional mustard sauce,” she said. Only original sauces and spice rubs qualify for award judging.
Last year they entered all categories but pork. “Sometimes it just takes getting lucky to win,” she said.
Participants come from as far away as Indianapolis, southern Ohio and cities across southern Indiana and northern Kentucky.
“We grew up camping in the area,” Sena said. At first the family came to listen to the Blues Bash music portion of Ribberfest. They then began cooking and competing. “We like to get together with the people, listen to the music and have a good time.”

Back to 2011 Ribberfest Articles.




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