My first visit to the Rose Festival BBQ Contest in State Center, Iowa, was in June of 2009. Reminiscent of that little fictional town called Mayberry, BBQ teams parked all along the streets in a residential neighborhood, and the aroma of smoke filled the air. A loud train roared through town many times a day, yet it didn’t drown out the hollering and laughter coming from all the Pit Masters (poking fun at each other) while at the same time creating some of the best BBQ on earth.
That sunny day I shaded myself under the judge tent. I slipped off my sandals to feel the cool, green grass brush against the bottom of my feet. A warm breeze softly hit my face as I waited patiently for the first turn in to arrive. The Rose Festival BBQ Contest was beginning to bloom and it would for many years to come.
I would say in each category (chicken, ribs, pork and brisket) I had at least one or two excellent samples. One common theme among the judges: Too much sauce on the chicken. This generally does not affect me, but I have to admit some did look really heavy on the sauce. Perhaps something to consider as a team on future turn-ins. For the most part, the meats submitted to me were all pretty good. Overall I felt the teams did a great job on their boxes. My favorite was the pork boxes. Absolutely beautiful and tasty.
Congrats to Hot Daddy's BBQ (GRAND CHAMPION) and Hogline (Reserve Grand) and to all teams participating this weekend. You put smiles on the judges. Special shout out to my friends Matty Mack's for his 1st place in Chicken and 1st in People's Choice. Great job, Matt! Ray & Jay (Smokehouse72) for 3rd in Ribs, David Ellis (Machete Boys BBQ) for 2nd in Pork, Kyle Johnson (T-Rex BBQ) for 2nd in Brisket. You are nailing that Brisket, Kyle! I was pleased to see Darren Warth (Iowa's Smokey D's) finish strong with a 3rd in Brisket and 4th Overall. Lots of great calls by well-deserved teams.
TOP FIVE OVERALL WINNERS
Their young daughters (Kylee Johnson and Carlee McDermott, aka Bestie-Q) entered ribs in the People’s Choice category. David Ellis (Machete Boys BBQ) even gave the girls a quick lesson in trimming ribs, knife skills and applying rubs evenly. The girls competed against all the adult teams and landed 2nd Place (out of 9 teams)! Matty Mack’s nailed 1st and BAMBQ 3rd. Holy Cow excitement broke out. Kyle and Sean were the proudest dads on the planet earth. Like I said, there is always excitement going on at the T-Rex camp and this was a very special family moment.
TOP THREE PEOPLE'S CHOICE (Ribs)
BBQ CRITIC BONUS VIDEO CLIP: Kyle Johnson and Sean McDermott just watched both their young daughters (Kylee Johnson & Carlee McDermott, aka "Bestie-Q") win 2nd place People's Choice beating out seven grown adult teams. What a thrill! Moments like this is what BBQ contests are all about. Family and friends coming together for the love of BBQ and fun.
GRUMPY OLD FARTS BBQ
Darren posted about his trip on Facebook, "Today we made the trek out to Mick’s Hump, the father in laws favorite place to fish. When he passed away, we took his tackle box which had about $700 worth of lures in it and filled the pockets with rocks and sunk it to the bottom of the lake. Every year we stop by and celebrate Mick, have a drink and share some great stories. Sure do miss the grumpy old fart."
What a heart touching story. Thanks for letting me share this, Darren. I can think of another tradition involving Darren Warth.
Friday night I left a few containers with his wife Sherry since Darren was not around. The next morning he posted a photo and wrote this on Facebook, “When the potato salad God drops off his special potato salad after you go to bed you have it for breakfast. So simple, so good. By far the best potato salad I’ve ever eaten. Only thing that could have made it better is eating it freshly made at room temp, that’s when the flavors really fly. Thanks for thinking of me Herb.”
You are very welcome, Darren. You have made this a really fun tradition. So thank you.
David Ellis (Machete Boys BBQ) let me try a sample of his brisket (magnificent!) and he sent me home with a vacuum packed assortment of competition meat. Going to have it for dinner this week, David. Can't wait! LTS BBQ’s Steve Carfrae (who judged with me this weekend) brought me a pile of the most tender and flavorful burnt ends. Absolutely delicious, especially over mashed potatoes and gravy.
Kyle Johnson (T-Rex BBQ) brought me bag of my favorite pastries from Jaarsma Bakery – Puff Pillows. Love it! I purchased a bottle of Smokehouse72’s new Sweet & Savory rub and look forward to cooking with it. This rub needs to be on the shelf at The Grill Works in Marion, IA. Ray & Jay even gave me a Smokehouse72 T-shirt. Very nice. I appreciate Dusty Ware for bringing me a case of Jealous Devil JAX BBQ Pellets to buy. I had a hard time finding it anywhere and glad the Iowa BBQ Store had it in stock. Thanks to Jason Wagner (Wags Backwoods BBQ) for giving me his team sticker. .
This was like getting my dream goodie bag at a BBQ contest. Thank you everyone!
SAVE THE DAY BBQ
There were lots of talented cooks here, but I managed to survive and placed 13th in chicken, 15th in ribs, 8th in pork (yep, I got a call!) and 19th in Brisket. Ended up 14th overall (out of 25 teams). Not bad for a BBQ Judge. Getting a call that day was a thrill. Everyone erupted in applause and thought it was cool I actually got a call. What a day for SAVE THE DAY BBQ.
That’s why I come back and you should, too.