Beta Beta Que and the Barbeque Brethern sound like names from an ancient order of food aficionados. But at the Boone County Fair, members from these behemoths of beef met for the battle of the briskets. Competitors at the 14th annual Boone’s Lick Trail BBQ Contest roasted and broiled in the sun all day Friday and until noon Saturday in hopes of being the next grand champion.
The competitors were judged in four categories of meat: pork ribs, pork shoulder, chicken and beef brisket.
The event was sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society, or KCBS, known for hosting some of the most talented barbecue chefs in the world. Mike McMillen of Columbia has been the coordinator of the event for five years.
“For the first nine years, the competition was a backyard barbecue contest with different rules every year,” McMillen said. “When I took it over, we standardized the rules and adopted the KCBS system.”
After a long introduction to the judging process, which included community members being sworn in as judges and listening to a CD on how to accurately gauge the meat, the only noises that could be heard were the numbers of the entries being called out and the smacking of fingers being licked.
Though the competition used strict rules in the entry and judging of the meats, most of the competitors were friends.
Norton Evans, owner of the 63 Diner and last year’s barbecue grand champion, said he came out to have a good time.
“Everyone here is a good cook, so we just try to have fun,” Evans said. “I just like to barbecue. That’s the bottom line.”
Hanging plastic pigs, flags with a skull and crossbones and an icon of a pig holding a wine glass smoking a cigar were some of the decorations the chefs used to adorn their plots in the barbecue area. Evans had made the front of his barbecue area look like a shop from the Old West.
The names of the teams added flavor to the event. Belly Brothers BBQ, Rub it ‘Til it Smokes and Four Men and a Pig were some of the titles the competitors took.
John Berlebuegler, member of Belly Brothers, shared the inspiration for his team’s name. “My brother-in-laws and I were sitting around the Christmas tree looking at our bellies and thought of the name.”
The heat of the grills combined with the scorching temperatures didn’t deter barbecue lovers from coming to the fair. Berlebuegler’s team brought a homemade margarita machine with them to stay cool.
McMillen said, “It was unusually hot for this time of year, but we had more teams turn out than usual.”
The overall winner of the competition was the team Four Men and a Pig, headed by Mark Greco.
Flower of the Flame took first place in the chicken division. Belly Brothers BBQ took first place in the pork shoulder category. Four Men and a Pig took first in the ribs category, and team Pellet Envy took first in the brisket category.