When it comes to cooking up good will in the Stateline Area, Brian Mark is an expert. Does thinking of Beloit’s RibFest make your mouth water? If so, you have Brian to thank. He helped start the annual fundraising cook-off some eight years ago after he and his family made Beloit their new home. A Chicago native, Brian and his family moved here from Appleton, Wis.
It was his Chicago background that inspired the Beloit efforts since he, friends and family enjoyed the Mike Royko Ribfest in Grant Park.
“I loved Beloit, but I learned there was no Ribfest here,” he recalled.
Beloit businessmen Bill Locke and Jim Agate helped him organize the first RibFest in 2009, an annual cook-off that benefits Beloit Regional Hospice and the Beloit Domestic Violence Survivor Center. Local businessman Tom Finley also was instrumental in growing the event.
Thanks to their efforts, roughly 800 people attend RibFest each year.
“At RibFest the contestants cook up ribs and sauces, and we sell the product to the general public,” Brian explained.
Held yearly at the Rock Bar and Grill, 101 Maple Ave, on the bank of the Rock River, RibFest draws many participants, ranging from local companies and organizations to the volunteers who cook up a storm and judge the event.
“We engage nine people as judges for the ribs and nine for the sauces, and we love new volunteers from the community,” he said.
The judges are not cooking show hosts. They are amateur judges with connections to Beloit, and past judges include at least two city managers. Other volunteers pitch in to help in other capacities.
Brian said he believes strongly in contributing to the area.
“My wife and I have been giving forward all our lives.”
Brian and his wife Diane have three kids, Avery, 16; Griffin, 14; and Charlotte, 12.
Brian’s brother Mike competes in RibFest and has won several trophies which sit proudly on display in the children’s playroom at the Brian Mark Funeral Home in Beloit, located at 1000 Inman Parkway. Brian owns a second funeral home location on Milwaukee Road in Clinton.
Brian was born in St. Louis, Missouri the third child of five to the late Norman L. and Dolores M. (Drutowski) Mark. He was raised in Lake Zurich, Illinois with strong family values he says guide his life today.
“I believe in building on a momentum of good will and making wherever I’m living a better place. In my line of work, I have the privilege of listening to clergy regularly, and they often encourage people to give forward and share of their time.”
He brings his love of people to his professional life when he assists families in making heartfelt decisions to honor their loved ones.
“I am committed to helping everyone who walks through our doors, no matter what their circumstances may be,” he said. “I have dedicated my life to the needs of families and their loved ones.” Away from work, Brian enjoys time with his own family and friends – usually on or around water.
His interests include boating, fishing, competitive waterskiing and local live music. In addition to RibFest, he also stays active at the Beloit YMCA, Zenith Boat Club, Beloit Moose Lodge #191, Knights of Columbus and Our Lady of the Assumption Parish. He is a member of the Beloit Chamber, Clinton Chamber, Beloit Hospital Foundation Board, Beloit Noon Lions Board, NEBA Board of Directors, the Beloit Elks Club, the Beloit Club, the Fruin Lake Water Ski Club of Huntley, Ill, the Wisconsin Water Ski Association, the Illinois Water Ski Association and the United States Water Ski Association.
His professional affiliations include memberships in Wisconsin, Illinois and National funeral directors associations. His advice for people considering volunteering comes in the form of a question. “Why not make our community a better place?”
He said that volunteering includes simple acts of kindness such as helping someone cross a street or buying a hamburger for someone who is struggling. He believes in being a good person.
“When I’m kind to you, you’re kind to someone else.”
Brian said he loves Beloit and is honored to serve the region.
“Diane and my kids love the city and the area. I am very proud of my active role in raising our three children, and happy to include the companionship of our family’s pet terrier Chip into many activities,” he said.