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BBQ Tour Stop #5: Memphis, TN

May 24, 2011

Due to flooding on the Mighty Mississippi river, the Memphis in May World Championship was moved from Tom Lee Park, right off Beale Street to Tiger Lane/Mid-South Fairgrounds, home of the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. While the riverside teams didn’t get to overlook the river, they did overlook the massive green space of Tiger Lane. Our spot was an upgrade from last year also as we were right in the middle of the event and with the rain that came through one night, since we were on asphalt, we did not have to change into our mud boots.

Thursday evening was the opening ceremonies and sponsor night at the event and people filled the grounds going to private parties and enjoying the nice weather. Friday morning our friends Brett and Heath from Pork Barrel BBQ used our stage to cook lamb burgers for the local Fox TV station and then Heath and I ran to the Fox area where Heath made a nice smoked lemonade recipe and the news guy gave me grief over which was better – Memphis BBQ or Kansas City BBQ … I told him that I chose Memphis style for one week out of the year but ultimately, as long as folks eat BBQ, it was a good thing! Friday was also the ancillary category day with 9 turn-in’s from sauces to exotics and KCBS was represented by teams that cook both MBN and KCBS, one example was Big Mo who cooked chicken with the folks from the Shed and came in 3rd in the Poultry division. There is also international presence in Memphis as the Norwegian and Danish National Barbecue teams had great showings in People’s Choice, sauce and exotics. Our good friend Diva Q from Canada even came down to cook with Melissa and Pete of Yazoo’s Delta Q.

Saturday was another beautiful day which started out looking like rain but stayed clear until the sun went down. This was also the main category day where teams have onsite judging of ribs, shoulder and whole hog. Chris and I had to take a break off the stage and microphone while judging was going on around us so we walked over and watched John Willingham visit with his onsite judges. Afterwards, we were lucky enough to spend a couple of moments visiting with John, his daughter Kara and nephew Jon and got to taste one of their World Champion ribs. Saturday was also our Grill Master contest and we had a couple of “pro’s” take over the stage. Grilling.com editor and BBQ champion Clint of Smoke in Da Eye BBQ took on Robyn of grillgrrrl.com in a classic boys vs. girls cookoff.

At the end of the day, Bubba Grills won the Rib category, Yazoo’s was a two time whole hog World Champion and Chris Lilly, Ken Hess and the whole Big Bob Gibson crew won shoulder and ultimately Grand Champion at Memphis in May!

Our weekend ended with record food samples and give-a-ways and we were thankful that Debby and Bill Gage got to share the weekend with us helping out with the record crowds. Memphis was extra special this year as we got to spend time with old friends and meet new ones.

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