COLUMBIA — It was 11:30 a.m., just half an hour before the first round of judging for the barbecue competition at the Roots ‘n Blues ‘n BBQ Festival in downtown Columbia.
The mood shifted. No more competitors offered beer or an invitation to chat — it was crunch time.
First the competitors brought samples of chicken to the judges, followed by pork ribs, pork, brisket and then the “anything but meat categorty”. Finally, at 4 p.m., the teams headed to Flat Branch Park, where the results were announced.
As the top ten teams were revealed, fellow competitors cheered whole-heartedly for the winners.
One team, Hot Flash BBQ, received a top ten ranking in all the categories and earned third place overall.
Contributing to their success was an unusual entry for the “anything but meat” category: a peanut butter pie.
“It’s the third time we’ve turned it in (for a competition) and we’ve done well each time, so we thought we’d try it again,” said team member Rick Dale as he held his ribbons.
Rod Gray, of the Grand Champion team, Pellet Envy, was humble about his team’s ranking.
“We’ve had some luck,” he said.
Gray attributed his success to using a pellet cooker, which uses compressed sawdust pellets and allows cooks to regulate heat in the cooker, making for a consistent product. While people who used wood or charcoal cookers had to stay up much of Friday night monitoring the temperature of their cookers, Gray was able to relax because his cooker required less attention.
“I slept most of the night while the other guys were throwing charcoal and wood into their pits,” Gray said.
His team was given a winning check of $2,500.
The top five winning teams for each category were also awarded prizes.
Though Dale did receive recognition, it was not his sole interest.
“The people, the contestants (are the best part),” Dale said.