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2009 Great American BBQ Tour Kickoff - The Presidential Center Smoke on the Water

March 19, 2009
Chris and I headed down to Little Rock for The Presidential Center Smoke on the Water USA Barbecue Championship. This was another class act event put on by Ron Cates of Cates & Company Advertising.

This year we have added another Great American BBQ Tour partner which means more products to carry. Additionally, we are giving out Tour products to teams and judges this year so fitting everything on the truck and trailer is like a life size Tetris puzzle.

Our trip to Little Rock was nice and smooth even though our GPS unit could not find the exact address of the hotel. It did get us close enough though.

The Smoke on the Water event had 129 teams and everybody had different load in times to make the process as smooth as possible. Our load in time was noon on Friday... along with 30 cooking teams on our side of the parking lot. After some sweet talking to Ron Cates and offering the Secret Service all the Tabasco brand Chipotle Pepper sauce hamburger samples they could eat, we got our time bumped up to 10am. This was a blessing, especially since we pull a 32' trailer and it would have been really tough to navigate after all the teams loaded in.

It was great to see some old friends from last year, one of them being Troy Black. We really enjoyed our time with Troy and his wife Jan last year in Naperville, Sparks and Lynchburg. We were surprised that Johnny Trigg and Rod Gray weren't side by side like they were in Hot Springs last year. We visited with our old friend Gary of Governor's BBQ and finally got to meet the Quau team after all the years that we have competed with them at our local event in Springfield. Carole Ritter stopped by with Flat Stanley to get pictures in front of the newly wrapped trailer for her and Doug's grandchildren. We also visited with Andy and Kim of Smoke on Wheels on their way back from touring the William J. Clinton Presidential Library with their kids.

We made some new friends too. We parked close to the Rat Pack BBQ team and the Big Wig BBQ Team stopped by the trailer with some wild afros. It was also really fun to have our Springfield friends, Clark Kent Super Smokers, come down and compete. Brian, with Clark Kent Super Smokers, was gracious enough to let me join his team and cook his ribs for the event. We placed 23rd (which was really cool) but even cooler, he placed 6th in the chicken category. This was Brian’s first walk to the stage and it was at one of the biggest KCBS events. His 14-year old son Brice also came up with an awesome sauce recipe which tied for 5th place overall. Brice and Brian took the CBJ class a couple of months ago but Brice is still too young to be certified. I think Brice will do well at his first Kids Que somewhere down the road.

The weather cooperated with us on Friday. Everything came together great as Chris and I got into our old rhythm during our set-up. It was almost like we haven’t had four months away from BBQ.

Mike, DD, Veronica and Lisa from MMA brought us down a couple of really sharp table covers with all the partners’ logos on them. They also brought two new banner flags which are 17’ tall. We are going to mount them on the trailer so we can be seen from any angle at our 2009 events. They also brought some of the new KCBS hoodies, which were a hit! With the cool weather, the extra layers of clothing were a must for everyone.

OK, maybe not everyone… Diva Q came down from Canada to compete and after traveling 1,852 kilometers to get there, the temperature was about the same. She was quite comfortable in her Diva Q wind shirt. It was great to spend some time visiting with her and the group from up North. The Diva Q story is a great example of the BBQ lifestyle and how much the BBQ world really is a family. Her group flew down for the contest; everything she needed had to be packed into a hockey bag or arranged to be brought to Little Rock by others. She used other people’s smokers, tables, and tent. She also had Kelly Wertz, with 4 Legs Up BBQ & Catering, bring her meat for the competition. I bet the TSA would have had some fun if she tried to pack her knife set!

Later in the evening Friday, it started to mist and by the time that .38 Special got to “Hold on Loosely”, the rain was coming down and continued throughout the night. I walked down from the Hotel at 7am to put the ribs on and check on the trailer. It really was a cool morning, which turned into a really nice day. Later in the morning, I stopped by and visited with Dennis and Betty Cates who were busy spreading hay in the judges’ tent to soak up some of the water. I was definitely glad that I picked up the rubber boots for Lynchburg last year.

The Saturday demonstration went well. I am still learning about the Good One cooker and Kingsford Competition Briquets that we use this year. I singed all the hair off of my hands trying to mess with the meat on the grill – Hmmm. I talk about using the air vents to control the heat. I should listen to myself.

Since we were set up close to the stage, we were able to listen to the awards and got to hear Diva Q when she won 19th place in the chicken category. Brought back wonderful memories from her dessert win at the Jack. Rod and Sheri with Pellet Envy claimed the Reserve Grand Champion award and Jack’s Old South won the Grand Championship. We were expecting a long wait before we could load out of the event with the number of teams that were involved. We were pleasantly surprised that the lots were pretty much cleared out by 7pm as we pulled out of the parking lot.

All in all, the event was top notch and I think that the teams had a wonderful time. It was a great way to start off the 2009 Great American BBQ Tour! Chris and I are looking forward to Hammond in a couple of weeks. We have heard such good things about that event!

See you all on the BBQ Trail,

Mike (& Chris) Peters
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