If he grills it, they will comeTwo years ago Wayne Jackson had a big idea--nothing new for the Richmond Hill home builder and shopping center developer. But Jackson’s latest vision had nothing to do with setbacks, driveway cuts, rooflines and zoning. It had everything to do with hamburgers. Lots of hamburgers.
Its name is “Grillzilla” and it’s Jackson’s Grill of Dreams, built without a blueprint from plans held only in his imagination.The 38-foot-long, self-contained 14,000-pound monster cooker and entertainment center is constructed on a custom built trailer. It can crank out 360 hamburgers or 800 hotdogs every hour on two eight-foot wide grilling boxes.
A 20-foot-long stainless steel prep counter provides space for Jackson’s volunteer grilling team to keep the food supply chain going.
A sucker for bright lights and good times, Jackson tricked out Grillzilla with 4,000 watts of lights, plus stereo speakers and two LCD screens for music DVD’s and TV viewing.
There’s a self contained water system and sink, and when it’s time to eat, countertops raise up on each side of the trailer that seat forty hungry guests on stools. Six 8-foot tiki hut umbrellas swing out from the sides of Grillzilla offering shade while folks are waiting for a hot burger, or just hanging out with Jackson after lunch.
For years, Jackson had a smaller grill that he loaded into the back of his truck to take to parties. “I thought, ‘If I had a big old grill it’d make a lot larger statement.”
Thirsty? There’s storage for sodas on Grillzilla, but you won’t find any beer. Jackson is a guy who loves a party, and he sees his dream grill as a vehicle for good times that help others, no booze necessary.
“Those tailgater folks say ‘I’d love to take that down to the Georgia-Florida game,’ but that’s not what this is for,” says Jackson.
On July 4, he and about 20 friends cooked burgers and hot dogs free of charge for 7,000 people at Fort Stewart’s Family Appreciation event.
“At the Richmond Hill Seafood Festival, I ended up cooking 2,000 pounds of crawfish in about two days,” he says.
Proceeds from crawfish dinner sales went to Special Blessings, a fledgling non-profit in Richmond Hill that sponsored a summer camp for special needs children and plans to offer after school care.
This Saturday, for the second year in a row, Jackson brings his grillin’ vision to Forsyth Park for Buddy Walk, a fundraiser and festival sponsored by Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society.
“Last year they anticipated 500 people; 1800 turned out,” says Jackson.
Event organizer Candy Bogardus expects 2000 people this Saturday for the one mile walk around Forsyth Park’s perimeter. The post-walk festivities include “train rides, blow up slides, an obstacle course, puppet shows, a pirate booth, a princess booth.
” Last year’s participants included children and adults with Down Syndrome as well as family, friends, and supporters. The 2006 walk raised $80,000 for the society, who sponsors training for educators and medical professionals, and support for parents of children with Down Syndrome.
“We have our children going to school with other children in a regular classroom setting,” says Bogardus, whose 3-year-old daughter has Down Syndrome. “That takes education. There’s no reason why a child with Down Syndrome can’t attend a regular school, but you need to have a plan in place to accommodate those children.”
At the 2006 Buddy Walk, “[Jackson] came out last year with his large group of men. They bring out the grill and it parks right there, and they grill all of our hamburgers and hotdogs we’ve had donated. It is very impressive, it is pretty amazing,” says Bogardus.
“Grillzilla is on the move!” says Jackson. “It is a part of the Buddy Walk family as far as I’m concerned.”