Friday, July 11, 2008

Smoke on the Mountain, Day 1

The Virginia Barbecue Championship and a guaranteed spot in the 2009 "Memphis in May" World Championship. That's what is on the line in this competition in Galax. The first day of the two-day competition was devoted to setting up the work spaces. The 2008 World Champion ("Natural Born Grillers") and the 2007 World Championship (Jack's Old South) were both present, so there was going to be some serious competition among the 15 entrants.

With the anticipation at a high level, the first two sights we saw were a bit puzzling. The Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile was interesting, but we weren't sure about the strength of the association.

We soon realized that Day 1 was devoted to the lighter side of the competition. Team members spent time talking with competitors and arranging the furniture at their presentation area at their work site. (Judges will visit the presentation and work areas tomorrow to award points in both categories in addition to the taste of the barbecued meat.)

The first sign that greeted us was also a surprise. We would not have expected Suddenly Salad to be sponsoring an entry in the barbecue championship.

Another association we would not have expected was the placement of this booth selling quilts and the barbecue "kitchens."
As four teams upwind from the quilt booth began firing up the smokers, we hoped that the quilters would sell their products early or that barbecue lovers would purchase the quilts to be reminded of the two-day competition.

Among the vendors selling jewelry, wooden model cars, tee shirts, and funnel cakes were the folks at this booth. I didn't get close enough to learn how the pain would be removed, but I did read the list of ailments that their treatment was supposed to address in some way--nearly two dozen problems from acne to fibromyalgia. I had waited awhile to take a photo of people talking to the vendors at this table, but the wait was not rewarded.

But back to the competitors. The smokers and the buses of these teams had considerable funds invested in them. From the signs at the smokers, we could see that these professional teams were caterers or restaurant owners who used these smokers on an almost dailly basis. One of the smokers on wheels was that of Professor Holmes which was quite striking.

After listening to a band playing outside of Barr's Fiddle Shop, having lunch at the Smokehouse, and watching people, we headed to two other stops before the end of the day. As we were leaving the downtown area, the teams were beginning to prepare some cuts of meat that would go in the smokers overnight. John Wheeler of the team Natural Born Grillers was doing some trimming on larger cuts of meat.

We stopped at Mabry Mill on our way to a second visit to Christopher's Pizza for a performance by "Master Grass." Sue Nessler (emcee) and Shu (owner) went out of their way to welcome us. Shu offered to take us on a special tour when we return for the Sunday afternoon jam.

We plan to cover the barbecue competition tomorrow and will have photographs of people at the competition, Barr's Fiddle Shop, Mabry Mill over the next couple of days.

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