Barbecue Teams and Friends Help Fallen Firefighter’s Family at Smoke in the Grove

By Ron Calloway – Pitmaster, Zoni-Q

The annual Smoke in the Grove Barbecue Competition is one of the most popular events on the Mid-Atlantic Barbecue Association’s calendar. The July 2021 event held a special place in one of our fellow competitor’s heart after the overwhelming support received for fallen Fire Fighter Lieutenant Thomas Royds. Pitmaster Rob Weber of Weber’s Backyard BBQ is a personal and longtime friend of “Roydsie” who was killed in the line of duty on July 24, 2021. Firefighter Royds responded to a call of a vehicle accident on Interstate 76 in Lower Merion Township, and as the units were preparing to leave the scene of the accident another vehicle stuck Lt. Royds, two other firefighters and a state trooper. Unfortunately, Firefighter Royds did not survive the crash and passed away early morning on Saturday, July 24, 2021. After further investigation into the fatal accident, it was determined that Mr. Royds saw the incoming and out of control car and pushed his fellow firefighters to safety.

Rob Weber had mixed feelings about competing in Smoke in the Grove and after soul searching and discussion with friends and family he decided Tommy would have wanted Rob to compete. In fact, Rob had cooked several times with Mr. Royds at various first responder events. They also shared a mutual love of sports and played softball together for years. Rob is also partial to Smoke in the Grove as he is the defending Backyard Grand Champion from 2020.

Rob contacted SIG Event Coordinator Andy Schaefer about taking a collection for Lt. Royds’ family at the event. Andy Schaefer not only agreed to allow Rob to collect funds, he provided Rob a chance to address the barbecue teams during the cooks’ meeting on Friday afternoon. Scott Nemeth from The Fat is Where it’s At BBQ procured a bucket with details about Lt. Royds and a brief description of his final call. After the announcement, many teams donated and offered their condolences to Rob.

I had the distinct privilege to accompany Rob while we walked around the complex to address other attendees that weren’t at the cooks’ meeting. Hearing Rob tell the story of his good friend’s passing and requesting any support for Lt. Royds’ family was very emotional for me. As many of us know, Smoke in the Grove offers a First Responders competition. The support from that group was overwhelming.

At the awards ceremony on Saturday afternoon Rob addressed the crowd again after encouragement from his friends. There were many festival attendees who hadn’t heard of the accident and readily donated for Lt. Royds’ family. There was over $2,000 collected that weekend and Rob was speechless at the entire event’s generosity. In addition to collecting financial donations, we collected as many BBQ Team stickers as possible so that Rob can make a large posterboard for the Royds family.

I know that I hear a lot of comments about competition barbecue being a close-knit family and that we would all gladly help a fellow pitmaster in need. Being able to personally assist Rob with this support request literally puts cooking barbecue, and life for that matter, in perspective. It humbles me but also makes me extremely proud to be a part of the MABA Family.

If you would like to help the family of Lieutenant Thomas Royds, please donate through their GoFundMe page at