take contest (somewhat) seriously
Sena family has found its niche
as formidable barbecue cooking competitors
Helen E. McKinney
(August 2011) For any amateur competition
cook, having a good time is naturally part of the process. For the Sena
sisters, its also a family affair when they enter a friendly neighborhood
cookoff such as the Madison Courier Backyard BBQ Blast at the Madison
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 Sisters
courtesy of Stephen Ossege
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.
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 Nicks Pit, Sena Family BBQ (brother
Don and his nephews) and the Next Senaration (Dons sons and their
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 Sisters BBQ won the Best Team Award at last years
event. This is the only competition Little Sisters BBQ enters,
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. Its fun. Wed do it
even if we didnt 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
courtesy of Stephen Ossege
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. Its the only
barbecue competition we really do because its 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
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.