South Carolina. Kansas City. St. Louis. Texas. Memphis. Alabama. No matter what kind of barbecue sauce or barbecued meat you like, chances are somebody will have your preferred “q” at the first Kentucky State BBQ Festival next month in Danville.
Festival co-host and organizer Brad Simmons said the idea came from the competitions he and wife Cindy attend as owners of Lucky Dog BBQ.
The competitions are open to the public, who can see and smell the barbecued meats being fixed — but can’t eat them. Hundreds of teams compete in the bigger contests, such as the Memphis Barbecue Network and the Kansas City Barbecue Society competitions.
“Top guys from all over the country go (to these competitions),”¿Simmons explained. “But you don’t get to eat the barbecue.”
There usually is a vendor selling barbecue sandwiches to hungry competition attendees, he added.
“We said we wanted to taste that barbecue,” Simmons noted. “We said we should spread the love of barbecue and do something like the Big Apple Block Party in New York City.”
That event started out with one barbecue restaurant and two pitmasters seven years ago. Today, 16 pitmasters and 160,000 people attend the party, where Madison Avenue is closed to traffic for blocks.
“That is a seeing, smelling, sampling, tasting event,” Simmons said of the Big Apple gig. “That is just sharing the love of barbecue.
“What it has done for New York — it’s not only a good thing for the town and the charities (served by the Big Apple Block Party), but it raised the bar tremendously for new barbecue restaurants to come in. As a result, the barbecue scene in New York City now is as good as anywhere in the South.”
Simmons said he told his wife, “I don’t care if it’s just me and you showing up — let’s do it.”
“It’s gotten crazy — everybody loves barbecue. It’s (that) simple — everyone loves barbecue,” he added.
“There’s not a lot of barbecue in central Kentucky. There is some fabulous barbecue in way western Kentucky, in Paducah. I’ve been out there, and I haven’t had bad barbecue. But there’s nothing here.”
The reception to his idea has been enthusiastic.
“We really got big hugs from the city, from the EDP (Economic Development Partnership), from everyone involved — the chamber, CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau) — all those guys,” Simmons explained.
The roster of celebrity pitmasters and barbecue-world superstars is extensive.
- Moe Cason was a finalist in last year’s BBQ Pitmasters Competition, which awards a $100,000 grand prize and the Kingsford Cup trophy. Cason won a $5,000 prize for his pork shoulder, Simmons said.
- Shelly Hunt is on the board of the National BBQ Association, which happens to be in Louisville, Simmons noted. She is an award-winning pitmaster for Desperados Barbecue of Angola, N.Y.
- Carey Bringle of the Peg Leg Porkers BBQ Team (www.peglegporker.com) from West Tennessee has created a barbecue sauce that was voted No. 2 in the United States in 2008 by Bon Appetit magazine. It is called Peg Leg Porker Memphis Wet Sauce.
- Craig Kimmel of Firehouse BBQ has been competing in barbecue contests for 12 years. He has won 12 grand championships and more than 200 awards for his barbecue.
- Melissa Cookston of Yazoo Delta Z will be on hand at the festival. She was a finalist on last year’s BBQ Pitmasters Competition on The Learning Channel. “She is the winningest and most decorated female barbecuer in this land of the man sport in the world,” Simmons said. In 2010, her team, Yazoo’s Delta Q, won the Memphis in May World BBQ Championship, making her the only female world champion. She also won the National Pork Championship, nine other grand championships, and her second Memphis BBQ Network Team of the Year award. She has been featured on several television shows, including TLC’s “BBQ Pitmasters” and Food Network’s “Chopped.”
- Ray “Dr. BBQ” Lampe has been participating in barbecue cookoffs as a hobby since 1982. “He’s coming to do demonstrations and ... seminars,” Simmons said. Lampe also will sign his books at the festival.
- Tim Farmer, host of “Kentucky Afield” on Kentucky Educational Network, will be in attendance, giving demonstrations and talking about how to smoke and cook wild turkey, deer steaks and other game.
A bean eating contest also is planned. The participant who eats the most beans in the allotted time will win.
Award-winning Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale will be set up at the festival. Chrisman Mill Vineyards will be on site, as well as Lore Brewing Co., The Twisted Sifter, Rattlesnake Hill Farm, Kentucky’s Smokin’ Grill, Marksbury Farm Market and a host of other vendors. United Way is a partner in the festival.