Friday, May 11, 2007

Spectator Friendly BBQ Contests

I followed the Office Depot show car south on I-75 from Tampa tonight. The crew-cab truck had flames across the hood and the triple-axle trailer was flawlessly lettered and painted to showcase Office Depot and the # 99 Ford Fusion driven by NASCAR's Carl Edwards -- the back flipping Missourian -- from Columbia. I don't remember the lettering exactly, but the trailer said something on it about "fan experience".

It got me thinking about possibilities for bbq contests. Wouldn't it be great if bbq contests had an element of "fan appreciation" or "fan participation"?

During my visit to the American Royal a couple years ago I was a little confused about why so many thousands of people willingly paid more than $10 to enter the contest site and watch others having a good time. Most of the cooking sites at the Royal appeared to be little more than "private parties". The vast majority of cooks had no intention of interacting with spectators. Regrettably this phenomenon is not restricted to the Royal. It happens at contests throughout the country.

Rather than just pointing out the obvious -- that most bbq contests are not spectator friendly --I'm all about offering possible solutions here on the BBQ Blog. So here goes....

In addition to the professional and backyard categories at sanctioned bbq events I'd propose a new category that allows for more direct spectator participation. I'd recommend creating a kettle grill category that caters directly to the spectator that wants to participate, but who is unsure how to get started or those who are too timid to interrupt the cooks that don't really want to be interrupted anyway to ask questions.

In the kettle grill category, contestants could simply show up at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning with their kettle grill, a bag of charcoal, their meat of choice, and whatever supplies they chose to bring. The entry fee should be something like $25, or maybe even less, to remove the barriers to entry for the casual backyard cooks. This kettle grill category would cater to meats that take a short time to prepare like chicken, steak, hamburger, or possibly ribs. As luck would have it, these meats are also more familar to beginning wannabe professional bbq cooks.

The prizes could be a simple winner take all $100-$150. Best of all, the organizer could possibly get a local business to sponsor the entire category. The category could be featured prominently with bleachers set up around the kettle grill "coral" for a birds eye view of the action. There could be a master of ceremonies to explain what's taking place for spectators and they could walk around and interview the cooks in action.

A kettle grill category would be a very good thing.

Start a Catering Business!


William Conway said...

I think that would be great! I'm relatively new to BBQ. While I hope (and plan) on working my way up to competing with the big guys, I think for right now the whole idea is a little daunting.

Having a separate grill-off sounds like a fun way to be involved without having a ton of expenses.

Chris said...

That's a great idea. Sort of a "farm league" for BBQ, so to speak. I think jumping into the competition fray is intimidating, even for someone who has a decent smoker and a few years of experience, so your idea would be a great way to dip a toe into the water.

Basting Away said...

I couldn’t agree with you more. What about letting the public taste each contestant’s entries and then have a “People Choice” award. We’ve only competed in one BBQ competition so far and everyone that came to our booth asked for samples or a taste. In the rules it stated “immediate disqualification” for giving any person outside your team something to eat or drink. We then did a crawfish boil competition and this was geared to the “outsiders”. You paid $20 to get in, you were given 2 tickets, one for best tasting crawfish and one for best booth design. The public then walked around to each of the 50 booths and tasted their crawfish and if they liked it, put their ticket into a box at each booth. Lots of fun!!! We got 2nd place overall from the judges and didn’t even place in the “people’s choice” go figure.
My brother-in-law and I are looking to do some type of fund raiser for the new YMCA that has been built in Covington, LA. We are thinking about a BBQ competition/festival with just what you are talking about! A festival geared towards the people attending!


The BBQ Guy said...

Good to hear from you!

I've been thinking about ways to get the public more involved in bbq contests and this seems like a no brainer.

Spectators at contests we attend are welcome to stop by and ask all the questions they want. We always welcome bbq enthusiasts and those that want to learn about competing!