Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Come on over to Faribault for a BBQ & more May 17, 2012

An example of the barbecued meat prepared for the 2011 Minnesota in May BBQ Contest.

MINNESOTA BARBEQUE LOVERS, this is your weekend.

The season’s first of six Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned competitions in our state kicks off this Friday, May 18, with the Minnesota in May BBQ & Cheese Festival at the Rice County Fairgrounds in Faribault.

And, folks, it’s free—unless you purchase food and/or beverages from vendors. And you’ll want to, once you smell the tantalizing aroma of BBQed meats. Vendors open to the public at 11 a.m. Saturday.

For the first time ever, Faribault hosted the Minnesota in May BBQ Contest at the Rice County Fairgrounds in 2011. Contestants cooked under tents during a morning downpour. By afternoon, the rain stopped.

Bubba and Sabrina’s home on wheels and traveling BBQ central parked at the 2011 Minnesota in May BBQ Festival. The couple owns Bubba-Q’s, a restaurant in Ottumwa, Iowa.

Artfully displayed bacon-wrapped pheasant prepared by a BBQ team from Appleton, Wisconsin, during the 2011 competition at the Rice County Fairgrounds in Faribault.

With $10,000 in prize money up for grabs, you can expect some top contenders vying on Saturday for awards in these divisions: turkey product, chicken, ribs, pork, beef brisket, anything butt and dessert. Contestants will be cooking all morning and into the early afternoon with judging from 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.

These delicious-looking apple dumplings were entered in the 2011 dessert division.

Ten cooks will also compete in a “grilling with blue cheese” contest featuring Caves of Faribault cheese. Yes, we have some savory blue cheese made right here in my community and aged in sandstone caves. That contest is set for 3 p.m. Saturday.

Award-winning Amablu Gorgonzola from Caves of Faribault.

The Cheese Cave is a gourmet destination along Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault. Stop by on Friday or Saturday if you’re in town for the BBQ Festival.

The Friday events, running from 4:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. include a Kids BBQ Competition,  BBQ Cook-Off and live music.

Now I’m not promoting this BBQ fest simply because it’s the nice thing to do. I attended last year and thoroughly enjoyed the festival, including chatting with numerous contestants. You would not believe how far these people travel, how much money they spend and how passionate they are about barbecuing. Click here to link to a blog post about the 2011 Minnesota in May BBQ Festival, which did not include cheese. Click here to read a post about BBQers Bubba and Sabrina from Iowa. And click here to read a third story from the 2011 BBQ fest.

The logo for the Faribo Drag-On’s car club on a member’s vintage car.

This year a car show, hosted by the Faribo Drag-Ons from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Saturday, has been added to the festival.

Other draws include a Saturday pancake breakfast from 7 a.m. – 9 a.m. ($5 cost), live music, food and non-food vendors and more. Click here to read a promotional flier about the Minnesota in May BBQ & Cheese Festival.

Contest and festival proceeds will benefit IRIS (Infants Remembered in Silence) and The Faribo Drag-Ons. Two more good reasons to attend.

If you can’t make it to the Faribault BBQ festival, you’ll have more opportunities from June through September to attend Minnesota barbeque fests—in Owatonna, Rochester, Marshall, Albert Lea and/or Worthington. Click here to read details from the Minnesota Barbeque Society.

HAVE YOU EVER ATTENDED a barbeque festival? Please submit a comment and share your experience.


This file photo shows the Faribault Woolen Mill days after a flash flood in September 2010 and before the mill reopened a year later. The mill had closed in 2009 and was not in operation at the time of the flood.

P.S.  If you’re in town for the BBQ fest, take time also to check out the Faribault Woolen Mill retail store across the Cannon River just south of the fairgrounds. The store, in the recently reopened and revamped historic mill, opened Tuesday. Retail store hours are 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday – Saturday.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling