OWATONNA — Some days it feels like it’s been 40 years, other days Amy Villarreal can’t believe it’s already been four whole years since her husband died.

“It’s just kind of hard to believe,” Villarreal said.

Though this may seem like a melancholy story, it is in reality far from that. Villarreal’s husband, Juan, who died on Oct. 15, 2015, after a battle with cancer, was an enigmatic character with more best friends than his family could count, and with that personality came one very important priority: having a good time.

On the year anniversary of his death, Juan’s family and friends began ensuring that his legacy continues through good food, great beer, and a whole lot of laughs through the annual Chubb’s Brew-BQ.

Incorporating three of Juan’s favorite things, the event invites barbecue junkies and home brewers to duel off their flavors and vie for the title of champion — all while raising money for a couple of great causes in the community that Juan loved.

The fourth annual Chubb’s Brew-BQ , sponsored by Mohs Contracting and Mohs Homes, will take place on Saturday, Oct. 12, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Steele County Fairgrounds Beer Gardens. Tickets are $20 in advance and can be purchased at Profinium, Wagner’s Lunch – Pool Hall, and Legacy Signs. Tickets can also be purchased at the door for $25. There will be a silent auction, wine tasting, live music, raffles, and the beer and BBQ tasting contest.

Since the event’s inception, the proceeds raised have been poured into the Juan Villarreal Jr. Memorial Fund. Each year, the Brew-BQ committee decides where they will then donate the funds to. The first two years, the committee was able to cut checks to the Owatonna School District to aid in offsetting costs for extracurricular activities for local children who may not otherwise be able to follow their dreams – something Villarreal said Juan very much believed in. Last year, the proceeds went towards the We All Play group to help them bring an all-inclusive playground and miracle field to Owatonna.

“This year I am personally very excited because we are partnering with the Crisis Resource Center,” Villarreal beamed. “They do such important work in the community and it is an organization that was very near and dear to Juan’s heart.”

After a friend of Juan’s died by suicide, Villarreal said that her husband poured himself into volunteering for the Crisis Resource Center of Steele County. He went through specialized training to be able to manage their hotline and be an advocate for anyone in his community experiencing a crisis — no matter what time of the night.

“Even through his sickness he would take calls in the middle of the night and leave to be with the people who needed him,” Villarreal said. “I always told him, ‘you’re amazing.’”

Through his years of volunteering at the Crisis Resource Center, Villarreal said Juan got to know many of the staff and other volunteers well — some of whom are still working there today. Because of the close connection Juan had with the organization and their mission, Villarreal said she couldn’t be more thrilled to help support them in her husband’s memory.

“At any time, you can take your old cell phones, tablets, or ink cartridges to the Crisis Resource Center and they will recycle them to help with their funding,” Villarreal explained. “At the event we will have a drop off for these items, too, and those who bring in an item will be entered into a raffle for a $100 Visa gift card.”

Villarreal laughed about how everyone has old phones laying around in a junk drawer somewhere with no idea what to do with them, so she is exhilarated to provide an opportunity to help raise additional funding for the Crisis Resource Center.

“It would be great to fill up some bins for them,” she added. “It’s basically free money.”

While Villarreal is audibly ecstatic about where the money will be going this year, she stated that another new addition to the Brew-BQ is sure to amaze the public.

“Besides our normal meats that would barbecuers are being provided, each team will be getting four pounds of fresh Florida gator,” Villarreal said. “It’s just a fun element we thought we’d bring in to keep people on their toes.”

After announcing this surprise to the barbecuers, Villarreal said they seemed equally shocked and titillated about the challenge. She stated that some of them decided to order some alligator themselves to do a trial while one, but that all of them have been doing plenty of research.

“It’s just something fun for them to play with and try that is out of their normal comfort zone,” Villarreal said.

A third, somewhat new element to the event will more raffles compared to previous years. There will be the raffle for the gift card that can be entered by donating one of the aforementioned items to the Crisis Resource Center, but also a raffle for a Coach purse that will have tickets sold during the event. Prior to the event, raffle tickets for a new grill can be purchased at Wagner’s.

“We also have a wagon that will be filled with a lot of different adult beverages — kind of a wagon full of goodness,” Villarreal said. “That is going to be an atypical raffle using decks of cards instead so it is a limited amount of chances to win.”

The amount of fun that Villarreal and the rest of the committee have in preparing for the event is only a small fraction of what they experience the night of. Villarreal described it as if the spirit of Juan takes over the venue as everyone clearly is having the best time.

“It would just put a smile on Juan’s face,” Villarreal said. “So many people that attend knew him, and it never fails that I’ll get a few stories about him that I’ve never heard before. Those always warm my heart.”

As the Brew-BQ approaches, Villarreal extends a big thank you on behalf of the committee to their many sponsors, including Cash Wise for sponsoring the BBQ, Foremost Brewing for sponsoring the brewers, and the Owatonna Eagles for sponsoring the music. T-shirts are also being made with the list of many, many sponsors who have also helped continue to make the night in honor of Juan possible. Villarreal adds that their volunteers, those who donate to the silent auction, the Owatonna School District, and Brad Kubat are all among those who help make this dream a reality.

“And our community – we are just so fortunate,” Villarreal said. “I say this every year and it’s absolutely from my heart that we are so fortunate to live in a community that’s so supportive and encouraging, it never ceases to amaze me.”

“I have never known anything different, but I have this sneaking suspicion that it is very special,” she continued about the Owatonna community. “I’ve seen it, I’ve been a part of it, and I’ve felt it first-hand time and time again.”

Those looking to donate to the silent auction can contact the committee through the Chubb’s Brew-BQ website. For additional information on Chubb’s Brew-BQ, visit ChubbsBrewBBQ.org or like them on Facebook.

Reach Reporter Annie Granlund at 507-444-2378 or follow her on Twitter @OPPAnnie. ©Copyright 2019 APG Media of Southern Minnesota.

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