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Grab your grill and get fired up to win: It’s Bartlett BBQ Fest time

Will Hair was the 2016 Winner of the Smoke Masters Grand Championship, first-place for pulled pork and fourth place for ribs.

Will Hair was the 2016 Winner of the Smoke Masters Grand Championship, first-place for pulled pork and fourth place for ribs.

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Expect to see proud faces behind the grills Saturday when local teams compete for top honors in the 2017 Bartlett BBQ Fest, a Memphis Barbecue Network sanctioned event. These are people who savor good food and take their barbecue seriously.

The aromatic and mouth-watering event is part of the Bartlett Festival at W.J. Freeman Park this weekend. Observers are admitted at no cost, but there’s just one caveat: The teams don’t sell their barbecue or give away free samples. Only the guests invited by a team can eat the food. (It’s time to wheedle your best barbecuing buddy into entering.)

This year’s competition features more prize money, an increase to 35 trophies and a jump in the number of teams competing. Last year’s competition had about 40 teams competing, and this year has more than that already, according to David Parsons, BBQ chair and Bartlett alderman.

“We’re on track to beat our goal,” he said.

For 2017, the BBQ Fest also added a sauce to the ancillary parts of the event. Last year, organizers surveyed the teams who participated and took their suggestions to make the event bigger, smoother and better than ever. One such suggestion taken to heart was an adjusted time for the ancillary competition so it’s not as close to the cooks’ briefing as in 2016.

Pulled pork and pork ribs are the main category with eight places for winners in each category and prizes up to $500 plus a trophy. The Grand Champ will win $600, a trophy and a 140-quart insulated cooler valued at $499.

Ancillary contest categories include chicken, beef, fish/seafood, dessert, BBQ side, and sauce. First place in each will win $100. A 26-quart insulated Orca cooler ($269) will go to the ancillary cook team with the highest cumulative points.

Teams can load into the competition area and register starting at 8 a.m. Friday, and all vehicles must exit by 4:30 p.m. Contest times on Friday will be:

  • 5:45 p.m.-6 p.m., ancillary BBQ side and sauce turn-in time
  • 6 p.m., ancillary BBQ side and sauce competition
  • 6:45-7 p.m., ancillary seafood/fish and beef turn-in time
  • 7 p.m., ancillary seafood/fish and beef competition
  • 7:45-8 p.m., ancillary dessert and chicken turn-in time
  • 8 p.m., ancillary dessert and chicken competition

All teams are invited to a 7 a.m. breakfast on Saturday. Contest times are:

  • 10:45-11 a.m. Saturday, pulled pork turn-in time
  • 11 a.m. Saturday, pulled pork judging begins
  • 11:45 a.m.-noon, rib turn-in time
  • Noon, rib judging begins
  • The winners will be announced around 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

“If you are a local barbecue team that likes to cook in the backyard contest, we’d love to have you,” Parsons said. “It’s a local event, and we’re looking for local teams.”

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