I expected a really hot, sweaty day in the BBQ judge tent. However, the shade from the tent combined with a big fan and lots of water allowed all the judges to stay comfortable. Overall, the judging went great. Chicken, ribs, pork and brisket were decent. The pork was especially good. I think I gave out two 999 scores and one 899. All the other categories had one or two entries that stood out.
Last week in Waterloo, IA (BBQLoo & Blues, too!) I completed a Table Captain class conducted by Mike Lake. Though I did Table Captain at other contests before being trained, I would normally try to avoid having to do it. Part of it was because I was not fully trained. Now that I am trained, this was one of the first times I raised my hand to volunteer to TC (many judges try to avoid it because they want to judge & eat). Well For the love of God! Two other judges beat me to the punch and they were chose to TC. Wow. That's a first. Usually contests are short TC's, but this competition ended up with plenty of volunteers. That's always good to see.
Table captains do get to eat off of the grazing table (where all the left over' meat from BBQ turn-in boxes go after judges take their own samples of meat). I do like the idea of being able to pick and choose what meats I want to eat in between meat turn-ins. This particular day, there was one really, really, really, really bad piece of meat I had to sample and judge. Boy was I wishing I was a TC at that moment. Needless to say, I scored the meat accordingly.
It was great meeting up with old friends and making a few new ones. The Flying BBQ judges once again flew in to partake in activities (Jerry Bressel and T. Michael Garrison) and of course BBQ Critic columnist Dave Compton was on hand with his smoked cheese. Wow! Good stuff, Dave.
Shortly after judging concluded, I attended the awards ceremony. Last week, when I was a Table Captain in La Porte City's "BBQ in the Park," Big T'z Q Cru won the Grand Champion and Swine Assassins won the Reserve Grand. Well, to my surprise both teams did it again! Yes - Big T'z Q Cru walked away with a back to back Grand Champion and Swine Assassins walked away with a back to back Reserve at Mason City's "Up in Smoke BBQ Bash." Grills Gone Wild came in third overall (they won a Grand Champion the previous week in Waterloo, IA at "BBQLoo & Blues, Too!").
I really enjoy watching friends win and when they hit a streak like this it's really a treat for all to see. Congrats to all who competed in the "Up in Smoke BBQ Bash" in Mason City. Looking forward to next year already.
-- BBQ Critic