By George Hensler
Special to The Dagger
The Maryland Barbecue Bash will be held August 10 and 11 in Bel Air, Maryland. Many times, those attending have no idea of what is actually going on. What follows is a short synopsis about what to expect when attending a barbecue contest. Even though it deals with Kansas City BBQ Society, (KCBS), the general principles can be applied to most barbecue contests held each summer all around the country.
After cooking numerous barbecue contests over the last six years, I am continually amazed at the amount of folks who approach my site and ask me to explain exactly what it is all about. I have been a strong advocate for all sanctioning bodies to provide more information either by way of a post on their site, handouts or signage at the contest site in an effort to inform the public. In my opinion, the more the public can be informed; the more benefits will come back many times over to any and all of the folks interested in promoting all aspects of barbecue. Nothing is worse than having a contest attendee go storming off after I explain to them on Friday night I don’t have any samples of barbecue for them to eat. They need to be informed.
The contest in Bel Air is held under the rules and regulations of the Kansas City BBQ Society, (KCBS) as the sanctioning body. Many of the 60+ cook teams will begin to arrive early on Friday morning. Upon arrival at the contest site, the meats they will be cooking will be inspected by contest reps to make sure they have not done any seasoning or injecting before arriving. Once the meats have been inspected, teams are free to begin any flavor building for the contest. By the way, it is interesting to note, buying the meats is the team’s responsibility, they are not supplied by the contest organizer.
Friday afternoon is a time when teams will be prepping their meats and getting things ready for the contest cook. During a stroll through the contest grounds you will see cookers and smokers of all shapes, sizes and configurations. Friday is a good time to visit with some of the cooks and pit masters. Just be sure they are not involved in contest prep when you ask a question. You will find that most of these folks are more than willing to talk about BBQ and grilling as long as they are not busy with the contest.
Many teams will begin cooking their larger contest meats (butts & briskets), late on Friday night or early Saturday morning. If you are present at the contest grounds on Saturday morning you will find the smoke really rolling as teams are busy getting things ready for the most important time of the event,” turn-ins.”
Saturday morning, between the hours of 11:00 AM and 1:30 PM the teams will be extremely busy getting their contest submissions to the judges. This is not a good time to approach team members to ask questions. Turn-ins are complete after 1:30 PM and teams will once again will have time to discuss things with the public.
During the turn-in period is probably the best time to be spectator at a BBQ contest, teams are working hard to get their succulent selections into their turn in boxes and make them look just right as appearance is almost 1/3 of the entire overall score. If you take up a position within view of the teams’ main prep area, you will be able to see what the teams go through to get their products ready for the judge’s inspection.
Their completed entries are then delivered to the judges’ tent and must be submitted within a 10 minute window, again, something that is outlined by contest rules. Many folks wonder who gets to judge all of this high quality BBQ goodness, well the answer is very simple, KCBS certified judges. If you’d like to see how you can become a certified KCBS judge you can visit this link: www.kcbs.us/judges.php.
Many folks inquire as to the possibility of tasting the teams contest offerings. Handing out food samples would fall under the jurisdiction of the Harford County Health Department. Rules pertaining to food samples being given to the public at the Barbecue Bash are very specific, it is absolutely prohibited. There are vendors present where folks can purchase many types of barbecued meats.
After the last turn-in team will begin cooling their cookers and packing for their return home journey. There is typically a short wait before the awards are announced. The awards ceremony is usually held around 5:00 PM. This ceremony is where the winners of each category as well as the overall contest winners are announced. Teams will all attend this gathering in hopes of hearing their names called to the stage. All spectators are invited to attend this ceremony and cheer on the winning teams.
After awards, many of the teams will depart the contest grounds and head for home. Some teams will remain on site and again this is a nice time to visit with the cooks as they sit around and discuss the recent contest events.
Please keep in mind teams have made a substantial investment of both time and money to compete in the event. Be respectful when asking questions as well as respecting the space they are occupying. Please treat their cooking areas as you would their campsite or even their home kitchen, do not walk in without permission. Most team members are more than willing to answer any questions you may have, as long as they are not directly involved in a particular contest related task at the time they are asked. Using a bit of common sense and courtesy will go a long way in making your visit to this contest a memorable one, and one that we hope you repeat time and time again.
This summary pertains specifically to KCBS contests. If the event you are planning to attend is sanctioned by another organization, it is a good idea to check the group’s web site prior to attending the event to be sure you do not miss out on any of the action. While specific rules and times may be somewhat different, many of the thoughts and suggestions shown above can be applied to most any contest setting, no matter who is the official sanctioning body.
For information pertaining to KCBS contest rules or becoming a KCBS certified barbecue judge, you can visit http://www.kcbs.us.
For information about the Maryland Barbecue Bash go to http://www.downtownbelair.com/bbqbash.
George Hensler is the pitmaster for the barbecue competition team, “Who are those guys?” based in Street, Maryland. (www.watgbbq.com) He is a certified barbecue judge and a regular columnist for two national barbecue publications. He is also the author of the book Startin the Fire, a “how to” book on starting your own competition barbecue team. www.startinthefire.com
11th Annual Maryland State BBQ Bash Downtown Bel Air, MD
From the Bel Air Downtown Alliance:
11th Annual Maryland State BBQ Bash • Downtown Bel Air, MD
Friday, August 10th, 4:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. & Saturday, August 11th, 12:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Promoted by the Bel Air Downtown Alliance
Creating a vibrant business community and visitor friendly destination in Downtown Bel Air, MD since 2001!
The Bel Air Downtown Alliance is pleased to announce the return of one of Harford County, MD’s most anticipated events of the year: The MD State BBQ Bash. The MD State BBQ Bash is a barbecue themed street festival featuring the Maryland State BBQ Championship, on August 10th and 11th where more than 50 competition teams from the Mid-Atlantic area and beyond will compete for $12,500 in cash prizes and the chance to compete in the annual Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational Barbecue in Lynchburg, TN and The American Royal in Kansas City, MO. In addition, more 36 amateur teams will compete in the MD State BBQ Bash Tailgate Challenge on Friday, August 10th to see who has the best ribs and will compete for cash, prizes, and bragging rights. For the past ten years the MD State BBQ Bash has grown to be one of the largest, most fun, and most anticipated events of the year in Downtown Bel Air. Great food, great music, great people, the Maryland State Barbecue Championship, and the MD State BBQ Bash Tailgate Challenge, have combined to create a tradition that we hope you will want to be a part of this year and in the years ahead.
The MD State BBQ Bash features live music with local and Nashville acts, top quality barbecue and other food vendors, sponsor displays, crafters, various merchant vendors, the Bel Air Farmers’ Market, and children’s entertainment in the Little Piggies Fun Zone. This year, we are pleased to announce that we will once again be bringing Downtown Bel Air to the MD State BBQ Bash with our “Downtown Bel Air at The Bash” tented areas featuring a variety of our Downtown Bel Air shops, boutiques, salons, and spas. “If we can’t move The Bash back to Main Street, we wanted to bring Main Street to The Bash. This is a great way for some of local businesses to gain exposure and a great way for our loyal patrons to see just what Downtown Bel Air has to offer,” reported Scott T. Walker, Executive Director of the Bel Air Downtown Alliance.
Once again,the Bel Air Downtown Alliance has partnered with Natty Boh Gear to bring in some of the most exciting and fun Official MD State BBQ Bash Merchandise ever! In addition, Natty Boh Gear is providing all of the Official MD State BBQ Bash Staff T-Shirts. “To me, nothing says ‘local’ more than Natty Boh,” stated Mr. Walker. “Natty Boh belongs to Maryland and makes everyone in Maryland feel like they are part of a unique community. We are extremely excited to be working with Natty Boh Gear,” he continued. Todd Unger, President of Natty Boh Gear, reports, “We’re excited about working with the Bel Air Downtown Alliance on sponsoring one of their many signature events in Harford County. The BBQ Bash is a highly regarded and highly attended event. We’re honored to be a part of it.” You can pre-order your Official MD State BBQ Bash Merchandise at www.nattybohgear.com or visit them atthe MD State BBQ Bash. This year also features the 3rd Annual MD State BBQ Bash Grill Raffle and is being sponsored by Char-Broil Grills. There are TWO chances to win and tickets are just1 for $5.00 and 3 for $10.00. You can purchase your raffle tickets BEFORE the MD State BBQ Bash at the Outdoor Movies at Shamrock Park on July 27th and August 3rd, as well as, at First Fridays on August 3rd. You can also visit the Bel Air Downtown Alliance at the MD State BBQ Bash in the “Downtown Bel Air at The Bash” tented area to purchase your tickets. The winners will be drawn on Saturday, August 11th at 7:30pm.
You can also expect another great year of fun and excitement with LIVE music from great local bands, as well as, a Nashville “rising star”. Once again, WXCY 103.7 FM is sponsoring the Main Stage with great performances planned from Walk-Ins Welcome, The Klassix, Head Rush, Fiction 20 Down, and Nashville recording artist, Jon Pardi. “WXCY has been a great friend and partner to the Bel Air Downtown Alliance. We love working with them throughout the year to promote all of the great events in Downtown Bel Air, but we always have the most fun at The Bash,” said Mr. Walker. A complete schedule of events is available at www.MDBBQ.com.
The Bel Air Downtown Alliance has also partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Harford County to bring something new and exciting to the MD State BBQ Bash: The Boys & Girls Clubs of Harford County’s Annual Kiss-A-Pig Campaign. “It seemed like a natural fit to move our annual Kiss-A-Pig event to the Maryland State Barbecue Bash in Bel Air. The Barbecue Bash is a favorite summer event in the Bel Air community and the State of Maryland, hosting barbecue enthusiasts from all over the country, music, and exhibitors. We are thrilled to be a part of the excitement this year,” reports 2012 Kiss-A-Pig Chair and MD State BBQ Bash Competitor, Mr. Howard K. McComas IV. He also made note that this partnership was made possible by Scott T. Walker, Executive Director of the Bel Air Downtown Alliance. Mr. Walker stated that he is “excited about the partnership between the Bel Air Downtown Alliance and Boys & Girls Clubs of Harford County.” Mr. Randy Acosta, Executive Director of Boys & Girls Clubs of Harford County, added, “Both nonprofit organizations are dedicated to the growth and enrichment of the communities we serve, and can make a real difference by working together. Our organizations will make excellent partners because of the benefits we can provide one another.”
The MD State BBQ Bash is free for the public and has regularly drawn nearly 30,000 attendees for the two days of the event. The MD State BBQ Bash is one of the most anticipated and exciting community events in Harford County, with a following throughout the Baltimore metropolitan region and beyond. As always, the MD State BBQ Bash is being brought to you by the Bel Air Downtown Alliance. The Bel Air Downtown Alliance is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, Main Street Maryland organization dedicated to creating a vibrant business community and visitor friendly destination in Downtown Bel Air, MD. This event is the largest fundraising effort for the Bel Air Downtown Alliance and 100% of the proceeds benefits their mission and is reinvested locally. As part of their fundraising efforts, the Bel Air Downtown Alliance will be collecting a $1.00 donation/admission fee at the Beer & Wine Garden. The $1.00 fee is only paid 1X/day. “We really want to keep this event FREE and open to the public, but in an effort to minimize the ever-increasing costs of the event, we decided to implement this one-time per day fee at the Beer & Garden,” reports Mr. Walker. “It’s a pretty nominal fee and it essentially boils down to your first drink costing $5.00 instead of $4.00,” he concluded.
So mark your calendars and make room for some Q! The MD State BBQ Bash returns to Downtown Bel Air on Friday, August 10th and Saturday, August 11thin the Mary E. Risteau State Office Building parking lots at the corner of Bondand Thomas Streets. Visit www.DowntownBelAir.com or www.MDBBQ.com to find out more information. You can also stay up-to-date on the “latest and greatest” by following the Bel Air Downtown Alliance on Twitter (BelAirMainSt) or becoming their fan on Facebook (DowntownBelAir and MDBBQBash). Bel Air…Be A Part Of It!