Now We Know "Jack"October 31, 2008 We pulled into Lynchburg early to try to take in as much as possible of this International event. While Lynchburg's population is only 361, it swells to over 30,000 during the annual Jack Daniel's World Invitational BBQ event!
We had a chance to visit the Jack Daniel's distillery and take a tour of the property. Seeing the process of distilling alcohol really was interesting as we toured one of the barrel houses that stores the barrels. It was the smallest barrelhouse that was only three stories high (most are seven stories and the new barrelhouses are eight stories) but you cannot really get an idea of just how many barrels there are until you see the long runs of barrels and look up those three stories. Each barrel holds about 230 bottles so you can do the math.
Afterwards, we went to the park where the event was going to be to scope out our location as we weren't scheduled to load in until Thursday. After talking to the site guy Ed, he wanted us to load in early to beat some of the traffic so we headed back to Tullahoma where we had dropped the trailer off for the day. We ended up parking next to a little creek and since rain was expected on Friday, we parked far enough from the edge but not far enough for me to not accidentally step in the creek... Ed's helper informed me that it might be a "dirty" creek so you guessed it... I was up **** creek! Unfortunately the hotel did not have laundry facilities so we improvised...
On Thursday morning as we were visiting with teams, we saw people come by the teams and were getting them to sign whiskey barrel heads. In asking, that was just one of the "Jack" traditions so we headed off to the barrel shop to get one ourselves. After getting some signatures, we headed back to the trailer to get things set up before the rain hit on Friday.
After getting the stage up and the grill unloaded, CMT rolled in to set up behind us. As they pulled in their gooseneck trailer, Chris warned them about getting too close to the creek and I guess they thought their nice truck could make it across after they unhitched and sure enough... they were really up **** creek up to the front axle. Just a foot in was humorous but a truck in was downright hilarious!
On Friday, the rain started early and did not stop until mid afternoon so we didn't get to meet a whole lot of people at the trailer. We did get to see an old friend from Reno - Steven Overlay, who also won a National pork contest for his Poppin' porkburger. He introduced us to his boss and friend Mike Mills, who wrote a wonderful BBQ book called "Peace, Love and Barbecue."
The parade of teams is another tradition that we got to see as all of the International teams along with most of the domestic teams... domestic sounds kinda funny, especially after meeting Phil and Speedo of the BBQ Brethren team (just kidding guys!!)
We also got invited to the "BBQ on the hill" which is another tradition. We caught an old school bus which was kind like the little engine that could and chugged up the steep hill to a beautiful pavilion overlooking the beautiful hollow below. There were rocking chairs and long rows of tables and some wonderful Southern food laid out. Fried chicken, white beans, cornbread, potato casserole and cooked apples and oh yeah... Jack Daniel's Whiskey. It was a great time to see old friends that we had met along the way this summer like The Governor and his wife Roxanne of Governor's BBQ who we were set up next to at one of our first stops in Nashville...Tommy and Lisa Houston of Checkered Pig BBQ who we met in Reno..... Doug and Carole Ritter who we met in Hot Springs and who both got an invitation to the "Jack"..... Johnny and Trish Trigg with the Smokin' Triggers team who were nice enough (Trish) to show Chris how to do a parsley box at the Royal.... Rod and Sheri Gray who we first met in Washington DC at the BBQ Battle..... Mike and Debbie Davis with Lotta Bull who we met under an overpass in Nashville at a little party prior to one of our first events.... Carolyn Wells, one of the founders of KCBS.... Ed Roith who taught our Certified Judge class in Salt Lake City...... Dr. BBQ Ray Lampe who flirted with my wife in Lebanon, TN..... and a number of other people who I am sure that I have left out for now.
I already know that next year we will have a guestbook for the trip!! We also were lucky enough to get pictures with Guy Fieri who was the Honorary Pitmaster of the contest. At the end of the night, we got to share another tradition at the "Jack" by writing some bygones and regrets on a slip of paper and burning it in the Jack fireplace.
On the bus ride back to town, some of the local ladies broke out into song... did I mention that there might have been some Jack Daniel's involved?
As we were walking the square of Lynchburg, you look up and see an old southern house illuminated on a hill high on the ridge which looked like you were looking at the moon on a dark autumn night - absolutely beautiful!
As we were walking to the truck, we ran into Phil of BBQ Brethren whom we had met that morning at the hotel. His team was cooking and Andy with Smoke on Wheels was cooking with the Brethren team. We had met Andy in Omaha when he was cooking with the Pork Pullin Plowboys and got to visit about friends and acquaintances and ended up giving his wife a ride back to the hotel as they were staying at the same place. It was nice to visit and just shows how this wonderful world of BBQ transcends things. For Andy to trust us with giving his wife a ride... for people to genuinely congratulate others for their accomplishments and winnings... for the genuine goodwill that is shared between cooking teams with tips, tricks and suggestions....it all just proves what a great sport/hobby/lifestyle that we are a part of!
Saturday morning started out early and the park was getting crowded by nine when we got there. Seems that we missed getting a truck sticker for parking on site but the big KCBS sticker on the side of the truck did the trick as we talked our way past the sheriff deputies. We had a great crowd for our demo and sampling and got to listen to some really good bands. We broke down early enough to take in the awards ceremony which was in the same pavilion that hosted the "I know Jack" about Grillin' contest. The natives (or was it the Belgiums) were getting restless waiting for everything to start. Since this was the 20th anniversary of the "Jack", there were some special awards handed out and one extra special one for us. Ed Roith and his family award the Muriel Roith Altruism award in honor of his late wife to specifically recognize a woman in BBQ who has gone above and beyond to promote BBQ throughout the year. I am honored to be married to the 2008 recipient - Chris Peters. For those of you who might not know, Chris gave up a very promising retail career to be my partner on the Great American BBQ Tour for KCBS. She is always there to visit and make new friends on the BBQ trail and always concentrates on how many new members or KCBS applications that she hands out at events.
It was great to see new and old friends alike get calls to the stage for awards. Diva Q, one of the International teams from Canada was probably one of the loudest winners as she got a call for best booth in the hollow... I'm sure that she was "horse" the next morning! It was especially nice to hear a name from back home in Kansas as Kelly and the Wertz family from Great Bend got the call as Grand Champion of the 20th Annual World Championship. I assure you that if we get through Great Bend, Kansas next year, we will be sure to stop by the 4 Legs Up Restaurant!
One of our own "traditions" continued in Lynchburg that was started in St Louis when we took over the tour from Ernie and Linda Poland where we all put on the checkmark for the St Louis event and took pictures of the "changing of the guard". We got Mike, DD and Lisa together from MMA, the marketing company for the tour, to help us checkmark the trailer for the last time of the 2008 BBQ Tour. It was exciting because of the success of the tour yet bittersweet because it was now over.
Now all we have to look forward to is the 2009 Great American BBQ Tour... More to come about that and we'll be sure to let you know what is going on in the "off" season.
Mike & Chris
KCBS Great American BBQ Tour Team