CHARLESTON - With this year's "Pigs in the Garden BBQ Contest" shaping up to be even bigger than last year's, it looks like organizers have succeeded in establishing the competition as an annual event.
As with Charleston's first sanctioned barbecue contest held last year in conjunction with the Dogwood-Azalea Festival, the event is once again sanctioned by the Kansas City BBQ Society, the largest international organization of barbecue enthusiasts, according to organizer Lynn Bruce. Assisting him and his wife, Dot, with coordinating this year's contest are Tammy and Buzz Sutherland of Charleston.
This year's contest is scheduled for April 15 and 16, the Friday and Saturday of Charleston's Dogwood-Azalea Festival. "All KCBS contests are standard two-day events. Some are three days, but most are two days," Bruce said.
The contest will once again be held at Reeve's Boomland RV Park in Charleston located at Interstate 57's exit 10.
Sign ups will remain open until April 8, but the number of cook teams is limited to 66 due to space restrictions. As of Thursday, 54 teams from 14 states have already registered for this year's contest. "Of those 54, six of them were in the top 10 of the nation for 2004 with KCBS," Bruce said.
"We anticipate this year's contest in size to be one of the top 10 KCBS contests in the nation," Bruce said. "The central location has a tremendous impact, the time of the year is perfect, and the reception the teams received in Charleston last year was outstanding."
Bruce said they were very pleased with last year's event. "It went real well," he said. "We finished last year with a total of 44 cook teams from 14 different states. KCBS says a first-year contest is successful if they have 15-18 teams, so we were way beyond that."
The entry fee for cook teams is $200 once again, but the prize money has doubled to a total of $10,000.
This year also adds some special contests in addition to the regular sanctioned categories.
"We've added 'Anything Butt' and dessert categories," Bruce said. "Those two will be presented for judging Friday evening, and we'll be using our generous local sponsors for judges."
"Anything Butt" is usually open to meats other than the four official categories for prepared meat, chicken, ribs, pork and brisket, but in this case is more specific.
"We are limiting the 'Anything Butt' contest to catfish fillets prepared anyway the cook teams want to prepare them," Bruce said. "'Anything Butt' was added to give a chance for the cook teams to demonstrate their culinary expertise."
The dessert category, however, is wide open. "The only restriction on the dessert category is that it not be a purchased dessert," Bruce said. "It can be anything. Again, it's a chance for the cook teams to show off."
The event is more than just an opportunity for cook teams to show their stuff, however.
"The proceeds this year will go to the Southeast Missouri Correction Center's personnel club which helps sponsor the Relay for Life and Special Olympics," Bruce said. "It gives us a chance to show our appreciation for the prison employees and their contribution to the local community."
A special rib sale to benefit the Charleston Department of Public Safety is also scheduled. Tickets for a slab of ribs cost $15 and are available from any of the Charleston police officers. One-third of the proceeds from the ribs will go toward the purchase of a drug dog for the Charleston DPS.
Bruce said the rib slabs will be cooked by Paul Kirk of Kansas City. "He's also known as the 'Baron of Barbecue,'' Bruce said. "He's won in excess of 400 barbecue awards and is a seven-time world champion."
Kirk will also hold a 12-hour barbecue cook class on April 9, Bruce noted.
Ready-to-eat barbecue will be available during the event as well, Bruce said, as an award-winning cook team, "Governor's Barbecue" of Nashville, Tenn., will be on site as a vendor selling barbecue to the public.
"Also we will have Old Hickory Pits out of Cape there with sample barbecue cookers and Tucker Cookers from Memphis," he added.
Bruce advised the best times for spectators to visit are around 5 p.m. April 15 and before 11:30 a.m. April 16. "Our award ceremony will be at 3 p.m. that Saturday," he said. "We encourage anyone who has a interest in barbecue to show up, talk with the cook teams, look at all their cooking equipment."