Well folks: today I'll talk about attending a BBQ contest as a spectator. I'll be honest, going to watch to a BBQ contest as a spectator, is a lot like watching paint dry. NASCAR is left turns with a few car wrecks, Golf has a few long putts being made, Football has touchdowns ,and Baseball has Home Runs. BBQ has Smoke. That being said you can go to a BBQ contest and have a good time. Most contest are held along with some sort of festival, be it a car show or a community fair, a lot of times they are held with some sort of music theme. So there are things to do and see beside watching people sitting next to a smoker and you smelling smoke.
Now if you go there are a few things you need to know. Find out when turn ins are, most KCBS events turn ins start at noon Saturday. That is when the teams are putting their boxes together to turn into the judges. This is crunch time for the teams, starting at about 11AM teams get their game face on. They are building their turn in boxes and making final adjustment to their pits if any of their meats are under or over cooking. Getting the sauce just right and making sure there isn't anything out of place that will hurt their scores. This is not when you need to be asking them your questions. You may get a pretty rude response. It would be like asking a Pro golfer for putting tips as he's lining up his putt to win a Championship. The time to ask questions is Friday. The teams will have their site set up and will be relaxing with a cold beer. Now is when you can talk to them and ask your question.
Now you will be surprised by how open and willing these Pit Masters are in giving folks there smoking methods. You can ask them just about anything short of their secret rub recipe. Of course some teams will be willing to sell you their rub or sauce. You can ask them about what temps. they smoke at, to how long it takes to cook their ribs. Ask about their pits and smokers, this is how I learned how to make my Ugly Drum Smoker. These people have a passion about BBQ and love to share it with others. Some contest have a people choice category, this is when you can taste some of Pit Masters food and vote for the one you think is the best.
Now about samples from the Pit Masters, unless there is a people choice category the teams can't give out samples. Don't get mad when they say they can't, the local health dept. won't allow it. If they get caught they risk being banned from the contest and fined by the health dept. Most of the time there is a food booth the organizers are running to make money and they don't want the teams giving out free samples while they are trying to raise money for their event or charity.
So go to a contest, talk to the teams on Friday. You will meet some real nice people and pick up some tips that will make your BBQ better,and you just might get the bug to start your own team and compete. Here's my warning, it is habit forming and a lot of fun.