This KCBS competition was held as part of the 53rd Annual Das Awkscht Fescht. Located in the private Macungie Memorial Park which boast a robust 43 acres full of classic cars, vendors, community swimming pool, and auto flea market. The auto fest offered live entertainment from noon until 10:30 pm Friday and Saturday. If you enjoy classic cars, classic 60’s era music, lots of fair food, and an awesome professionally produced fireworks display, this is one competition you need to put on your schedule for next year. Did I mention the fireworks display Saturday night to end the days event…which were set off right across the street where competitors were set up. The sight, sound, and percussions could be felt from each and every one launched, you will be hard pressed to find a better location and display of fireworks.
The organizers did a great job with this 1st time event, making sure competitors had ample electric and city water from one of the parks fire hydrants. There were oversized team sites as well as 20 x 20 regular sites to accommodate teams of all sizes. Fortunately the competition area was on grass to help absorb the hazy, hot, humid, dog days of summer, unlike those that baked on the asphalt of Sam’s Club in Laurel, MD this same weekend. So it is easy to see with 52 years’ experience running the auto fest that this new event has the possibility of longevity and becoming a team favorite in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Twenty-three teams went at it for the title of Grand Champion at the 1st Annual Pit in the Park. As the sun was setting in the early August evening the title fell to the well-known, well respected, 5-time Pennsylvania State Champions Tom & Michele Perelka of Lo’ –N- Slo’ BBQ. The event also held a chefs choice and dessert categories which were cooked and turned in on Sunday. Eight teams were registered for these two categories which were to be done in German or PA Dutch cuisine theme. The overall winner of the combined categories went to Tom & Stacie Feil of Christmas City BBQ.
First place winners:
Chicken – Smokin’ Tex BBQ
Pork –Christmas City BBQ
Brisket –Top Gun BBQ
Grand Champion –Lo’ -N- Slo’ BBQ
Reserve Grand Champion –Smokin Foolz BBQ
Comments Off on New Jersey State Barbecue Championship North Wildwood , NJ
By James “Tex” Laudenslager, Pitmaster of Smokin’ Tex BBQ
2016 marks the 18th annual N.J. State BBQ Championship in North Wildwood, NJ. As each year approaches many teams put this contest on their calendar. It is a well run event hosted by the Angelsea Fire Department. The only notch is they pack you in like sardines, but for many teams it doesn’t matter. Sixty-five teams come to compete for the coveted title of Grand Champion and that’s the case for Brian & Meg Ferguson of Finn’s Finest BBQ who won the event back in 2012.
This year was different for Finn’s Finest as this year they were moved to champions row which is right next to the sea wall by the inlet. They were surrounded by last year’s winner Uncle Pig’s BBQ and four time winner of the event Local Smoke BBQ. Also next to them was The BBQ Guru and add in teams like Wilbur’s Revenge, GoneHoggin.com, and other accomplished teams and you know you’re in for a knife fight!
As we all sat at the awards and listened to the top 10 teams get called in each category the crowd was becoming aware that this years GC was gonna either be Finn’s Finest BBQ or Wilbur’s Revenge. Finn’s took 2nd and Wilbur’s took 5th in chicken. Then they swapped spots as Wilbur’s was the top PIG in ribs and Finn’s took 3rd. While Pork did separate them a bit Finn’s finished 3rd while Wilbur’s finished 8th. The rumblings got a little louder when brisket was called and there Wilbur’s took the 2nd spot just edging out Finn’s who got 3rd. At this point the crowd was calling out both teams as to whom they thought who would win GC. To me it didn’t matter who won, both teams are awesome people and great ambassadors to the sport.
As they started the count down #10 to #3 the anticipation was exciting to see who would be GC and RGC. Wilbur’s Revenge was called for RGC and I looked over at Brian and he went straight over to Dave Marks and was the first to congratulate him. Then GC was called and Finn’s Finest BBQ was the last one standing…
First place winners:
Chicken – Piggin’ Whiskey
Ribs –Wilbur’s Revenge
Pork –Smokopolis BBQ
Grand Champion –Finn’s Finest BBQ
Reserve Grand Champion –Wilbur’s Revenge
Comments Off on Interview With the Champs – Checkered Flag 500 BBQ
by Brian Walrath, MABA Board Member and Pitmaster for Brown Liquor BBQ
Mark and Sharon Gibbs of Fawn Grove, Pennsylvania have been tearing it up on the KCBS trail over the last calendar year with many big wins in the Mid-Atlantic. I recently caught up with Mark and was able to extract some great nuggets of information that I’m happy to share with you in this month’s “Interview With the Champs!”
Congrats on winning your 7th contest and getting that all important Automatic entry into “The Jack.” So, which contest was the clincher?
Mark Gibbs, Checkered Flag 500 BBQ:
Thanks! It is just an honor to be able to go to Lynchburg and represent our region this year. I have to be honest, it did not really hit me until the draw happened. I knew we were going, but when I saw our team name on the list with 7 other teams that have won 7 GCs I actually got a little choked up. I would have been thrilled with a draw in, but winning 7 to get in still has my head spinning! The clincher was Smoke on the Mountain in Galax, VA. Was lucky enough to get an entry from Luke Darnell that he won at the MABA banquet. They cooked in New York that weekend.
To what do you credit this great run your on this year?
MG CF500 BBQ:
Consistency. Looking at the great cooks that we have here in MABA, I asked myself what they are doing that I am not on a week to week basis. We always see new names near the top of the list, but there are always about 6 to 8 teams that you can count on being there at every contest. I have worked really hard this year at sticking to a timeline and doing the same processes. If something goes wrong, I can pinpoint it and try to fix it. My pit temp debacle in Laurel was one example. My pit was 150 degrees over my cooking temp for 3 hours. I thought my pork and brisket were torched, but I was able to salvage them and come out of there with a strong finish. I also have to say that having the new trailer and Deep South Smoker has made a ton of difference too. It is great having Sharon and our Lab, Sterling with me every week. Creature comforts help a lot when you can get rest and take a nice shower at a contest.
Tell us a little more about Checkered Pig 500…who makes up the team and how long have you been doing competition bbq?
MG CF500 BBQ:
Well, the Checkered Pig 500 would be a combination of myself and Tommy Houston. I would not mind that combination at all!
[Editor’s note…Ok, I can’t be the only one to have ever made this mistake…Mark rolled right with it like a pro, so I kept it in!]
The Checkered Flag 500 BBQ team consists of myself, my wife Sharon and our dog Sterling (the real boss of the team). We have been blessed to have my good friend John Layton of Red Brothers along with us on a bunch of occasions. This season we have also added two new associate team members, Kim Darnell of Old Virginia Smoke and Mark Kenney of Sauce This BBQ. They stepped up and helped me while Sharon was recovering from her ankle injury. I have to give a shout out to our other associate team members, Leigh Anne Terry of Old Virginia Smoke and David and Cindy Bryant of Covington Cork and Pork fame. The three of them stepped up when Sharon fell and had to go to the hospital at Buckhannon, WV and did all of my turn ins and clean-up. They got a 3rd Place overall finish for us that day and I will never forget their kindness and love! We have been competing since 2012 and we just completed our 77th contest in our career this past weekend in Bel Air, Maryland. We love being around our BBQ family and as long as it remains fun we are in for the long haul!
So, judging by the name, you’re a racing fan, right?
MG CF500 BBQ:
We both love to watch NASCAR races. The sport is evolving and we are not as attached to it as we once were but we still enjoy seeing a good race when we can.
Who’s your driver and what’s your favorite event?
MG CF500 BBQ:
My driver was Dale Jarrett for the longest time. He retired and I latched on to Kevin Harvick. I like the bad boy attitude and he is a winner. Sharon is a Carl Edwards fan and I don’t hold that against her. We have been to two Daytona 500’s. The carnival atmosphere there is really a lot of fun and you can really sense the speed of those racecars there.
This year you debuted a fine looking new rig…can you tell us more about it and how it’s made a difference?
MG CF500 BBQ:
The new trailer is a 28’ Southern Dimensions Trailer. It has made a huge difference in our contest life this year. It has AC, a bathroom, shower, satellite TV and a porch for the smoker. It is really all of the comforts of home in a box. Dan Hixon told me in 2012 that getting sleep is one of the most important things to build in to your competition timeline. It was really hard to do that with 2 EZ-UP canopies. We moved to a Class C RV for two seasons and that was nice, but it was not a competition setup. I was able to custom spec this unit out and it really does make a world of difference in our timeline. Sleep is my friend at a comp these days.
Now that you’re qualified for the Jack, what other special events do you have planned for the rest of the year?
MG CF500 BBQ:
We were planning on cutting back from the 22 contests we did last year. That did not happen! I have 29 on the schedule and we are in the middle of an 18 week out of 21 week run of competitions. Sharon is taking a couple of those weeks off under my orders because I know she will wear herself out trying to keep up with the crazy schedule I created for us. We will be doing our first American Royal in October, the Sam’s Regional in 2 weeks and hopefully the finals in Bentonville. There are just so many contests that we love to do that we could not knock them off of the schedule this year. We will be concluding with the Queing in Cumming contest in Cumming, Georgia the weekend before Thanksgiving.
Ok, I always ask our winning pitmasters this…what’s the one tip you have for those teams to help them break through and win their first GC or up their game in competition BBQ?
MG CF500 BBQ:
I think that the most important thing a new team or a team that is trying to get over the hump in competition BBQ should do is take a class. I was two contests into my competition life in 2012 and I did the 3 Eyz “experience” where I cooked the contest with them at Pork in the Park in Salisbury. I believe that they finished 19th in the contest (Dan said I was not bad luck they never did really well there), but I took away some valuable information that I still use today in my timeline.
Anything else to add before we sign off? (Feel free to plug your class here)
MG CF500 BBQ:
Thanks Brian, it has been a blast getting to chat with you about what has been going on with us this season. Still a long way to go too! The Checkered Flag 500 BBQ is hosting our first ever tell-all competition class September 2nd and 3rd. It is Labor Day weekend, but it was the only one that I had available until November. The response to the class has been great and we do have some room for a few more students. I am going to really give you every step that I use in my competition process and I am holding nothing back. It is going to be a fun time and we will be supplying dinner on Friday and breakfast on Saturday. There may also be a supply of adult beverages on hand as well!
Congratulations to Mark and Sharon and continued good luck the rest of the season!
by Mark Gibbs, Pitmaster of The Checkered Flag 500 BBQ
The Checkered Flag 500 BBQ has hit a nice stride this year. People have asked, “What has changed?” When are you going to have a class (self-serving plug my first class is September 2nd and 3rd and there are still spaces available!) But seriously, much of the success can be attributed to finding consistency from week-to-week and producing as close to the same product as possible as a result of simple, repeatable, proven processes. There is an old saying, “the cream always rises to the top”. I have heard that for years in both business and in sports. I really saw that saying in action in the BBQ world here in the Mid-Atlantic region. How is it that the same teams can always be found at the top of the results list week after week? 3 Eyz BBQ, winners of many contests and numerous MABA ToY honors are always right there every week. 4:20Q, Aporkalypse Now, Old Virginia Smoke, Lo & Slo and too many others to name are always right there even if they have taken a few weeks off. I wondered what they did to always produce winning results and here are my thoughts and observations that I have put in place in my own competition BBQ program.
Repetition of a GOOD process results in consistency. When you find a process that works with a meat category, write it down! Put it in a spreadsheet and commit that process to memory. Successful teams did not start out cooking all 4 meats great. Most conquered one meat and repeated the process of finding that success with the other categories.
Remember to do all of the “little things” consistently. Little things might be as simple as setting up your work area at the same time at each comp, loading your pit with fuel at the same time or lighting your pit at the same time. I noticed that successful pit masters could be in the midst of a conversation with me and just say out of the blue, “gotta run….I have to do something back at my site.” I realized I could set a clock to some of these guys doing the little steps each week. I try to do all of those things I mentioned above and more at the same time each week. That includes something as simple as tearing aluminum foil for everything on Friday after I trim meats. Consistent prep practices are your friend!
Have you ever asked a top competition BBQ team how they did before awards and they respond with, “well, we hit all of our marks, so we will see”? Those guys just told you that they did everything according to a preset timeline that they repeat on a weekly basis. When a team can do that with a proven process, they will be successful more often than not. For me, hitting my marks is not like KCBS turn-in times. There is no five minutes before the mark and five minutes after that mark. If 3am is the time to put meat on the pit, that is my mark and I shoot for it every time. As a solo cook, you will rarely hear me say I hit my marks because it sounds self-serving, but teams with multiple members that are successful set and hit marks like a well-timed dance routine.
Don’t be afraid to measure rubs, sauces and wrap ingredients (honey, sugar, agave, butter, etc.) until you find the process that works for you. I was a baker for a lot of years. Commercial baking uses formulas, not recipes to make breads and sweets. Recipes have room for change and are open to interpretation. Formulas are more precise. Competition BBQ results can hinge on a little bit of this or that in the wrong place making a big difference in your final product. Use shaker cups and measuring cups when measuring out sauces, injections and rubs. A sauce or rub mix is a formula, not a recipe! Be precise! Once you find the right combination, you may stick with those cups and bottles or you may be confident enough to shoot from the hip and measure by eye. I don’t recommend that, but I am guilty of it sometimes.
Write down what processes worked or did not work on the back of the KCBS scoresheet that you get from a contest. Keep your contest results in a binder or folder and refer back to them when going to contests at those same venues or geographic areas. There is no substitute for experience at a contest and as the pit master, you have a wealth of information at your disposal after you have some contests under your belt. If the judges liked that hickory-habanero mint jelly combination on your chicken at the Sons of Italy Competition in New York City, write it down because you probably will not remember that next year!
My final though is that looking back on my 76 competitions at the time I am writing this article I thought that my first GC would never happen. Three years into my competition BBQ career and no GC’s. I had category wins and a couple of RGC’s but I never saw my name at the top of the list. Well, financial advisor Dave Ramsey says, “Nothing happens without focus. Don’t try to do everything at once. Take it one step at a time!” Rarely does a new team or a team that does not compete much have a run of GC’s or top calls. It happens, but it is rare to see it. Focus on your competition program one step at a time. Build on successful processes, repeat them, learn from them and watch your competition program step up to new levels!
Most importantly have fun! That is what the sport of competition BBQ is about first and foremost. Success will follow if you keep it fun! I look forward to seeing you all on the BBQ trail soon!
By Stephanie West, MABA Vice-President and “The Neck” Pitmaster for Team 270 Smokers
As the 3rd event out of 7 in the Old North State Series, we ventured to Lincolnton, NC for Hog Happenin’ under the impression that the four-legged variety was the star of this small North Carolina town. Indeed, there were hogs by the thousands…they’d taken over every street and byway, capturing the attention and awe of bystanders…but it was the wheeled variety that was being celebrated at this festival! Biker nirvana, I’d say!
And did I mention it was HOT? Lord, have mercy, it was hot and humid!! 97 in the shade, and we were oh so very thankful for that shade! (It was so hot that we skipped our traditional “team meeting” shot and instead passed out popsicles to neighboring teams!)
26 teams competed in Lincolnton, with most hailing from North Carolina. And North Carolina prevailed! MABA’s own Redneck Scientific crushed it, capturing their 3rd GC of the year with a 706.2400 – marking their entry into “The 700 Club”!! Jerry and Roxanne swept 1st in Ribs with a 180, 1st in Brisket, 2nd in Pork, and 3rd in Chicken!! RGC went to Checkered Pig with a 691.9200. Team 270 Smokers took 1st in Chicken (their first 180 in Chicken), and Elite BBQ Smokers did the same in Pork. Overall, it was a pretty large spread in team scores (from 560 to 706), with no “table of angels” or “table of death”.
Cash and trophies were awarded to GC, RGC, and the top 3 in each category, framed certificates were given for 4th thru 6th. Payouts to just the top 3 was a pretty controversial topic, and it’s something that you may want to think about if you’re considering this event on your schedule next year. If you do go, enjoy the small town charm and all the biker bling you can imagine!
First place winners:
Chicken – 270 Smokers (with a perfect 180!)
Ribs – Redneck Scientific (with a perfect 180!)
Pork – Elite BBQ Smokers (with a perfect 180!)
Brisket – Redneck Scientific
Grand Champion – Redneck Scientific
Reserve Grand Champion – Checkered Pig
Comments Off on Rockin’ Robyn’s BBQ Claims Their First Grand Championship in Hagerstown, MD
In only its second year, the Interstate Barbecue Festival in Hagerstown, Maryland hosted 41 strong Mid-Atlantic teams, many of which were starting the year and chomping at the bit for a good showing. Rockin’ Robyn’s BBQ from Forrest Hill, Maryland has been on the cusp of hitting the big one with a strong year in 2015. Well, this was the weekend they put it all together and hit the big one…Grand Champions! Hear all about that great day and more…including their plans for the rest of the year, what makes them such a great team, and their advice to other teams on attaining their first GC and how to get over the hump. Just click the video below!