THEY START OUT innocently enough, barbecuing in the backyard.
Then, before they know it, they’re competing in barbecue competitions, driving all over the country with their gargantuan grills loaded into trailers.
Some have created their own rubs and sauces, while others doctor up purchased sauces.
They spend hundreds of dollars on meats, entry fees and travel expenses. Maybe, eventually, if they win enough contests, they’ll break even.
I met several of these die-hard barbecue contestants Saturday while walking the grounds at the Minnesota in May BBQ Contest in Faribault. By the time I arrived in the early afternoon, the teams had already turned in their mandatory entries—chicken, pork ribs, pork and brisket. Teams of judges evaluate the food on taste, tenderness and appearance in this Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned event.
The competitors had been grilling for hours—under tents in pouring rain—when I got to the contest site at the Rice County Fairgrounds. Now they were relaxing, some of them kicking back with bottles of beer, others visiting with attendees and/or packing up.
As I wandered the soggy grounds with my husband, sidestepping puddles, I spied grills that looked more like space age inventions than grills. Mighty impressive. The Q Crew from Waldorf has even appropriately named its grill “the pig casket.”
Since I’m a word person, I noticed the creative names these teams of barbecue enthusiasts have given themselves: BurntOut Smokers, Rebel Fire Que’n Company, The Monkeys’ Uncles Competition BBQ Team… I didn’t pause to ask the stories behind the names and logos; I simply snapped photos.
At least one group of guys, from western Wisconsin, had time to talk. Not about their team name, which I don’t remember, but about the reason they do this: “To get a break from the wives and kids.” Not that they don’t love their families, but…
These buddies especially enjoy the fun of small town BBQ contests, like the one in Gilmanton, Wisconsin, where they start the day with Bloody Marys.
They’re an easy-going, laid-back bunch, these barbecuing fanatics. Or at least they are once the meats are turned into judges. Before that, I’d guess the atmosphere under those team tents rates as tense. After all, they’re in it to win it.
WATCH FOR MORE BBQ images in one more blog post.
© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling