This year marked the 39th anniversary of Memphis' World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. 235 barbecue teams from 22 states and five countries came to compete for $115K in prize money and global recognition as the world's best barbecue. It took 900 volunteers, including 200 barbecue judges, to pull the event off. But the numbers only tell part of the story. This year, the DNA recaps barbecue fest through the stories of a barbecue finalist, a booth champion, and two volunteers.
Our first look at the competition comes from Will Frazier, representing the People's Republic of Swina, a team that has competed in the WCBCC for 9 years. The team was led to a third place finish in the Shoulder this year by Head Chef Denny Koerner and fellow leader Jack Woods. "The shoulder was perfect, definitely the best I’ve ever seen, and on top of that Denny’s homemade sauce is spectacular," says Frazier, "and my favorite thing, his dry rub, what he calls the 'soul' of BBQ, is out of sight. Put that dry rub on a piece of rubber and I’d eat it."
If you went this year, you might remember Will Frazier, aka Donald Rump, from his weekend campaigning to "Make Pork Great Again." Check out the full interview and learn how the team overcame stiff competition, massive ranges in meat shoulder sizes, and outdated speakers to win top 3 glory. "Who knew BBQ could make grown men cry?" reflects Frazier on the team's top finishing moment.
Our next look comes from Mike Ogden, from the All Star Ten Pin Porkers, a team that has been competing at WCBCC since 1997! For the second year in a row, the team won the Home Depot Best Booth category. They embraced Canada as the feature country this year, and built an immersive, Canadian-themed experience in their booth, complete with details like Canadian beer alongside a campfire, a maple tree perched behind Adirondack chairs, and a moose head mounted above the cabin. Of course, what probably put them over the edge was their snow machine. "That's right, there was snow in May in Memphis!" says Ogden. You can watch the snowfall in this recap video.
Dreaming up an awe-inspiring booth design is hard enough, but execution is where real teams shine. "We beg, borrow and rent what we need to compete," says Ogden, "We invest a lot of personal time, donate items from our personal homes and even invest some of our own personal funds into the project." Getting snow to fall at Memphis in May wasn't easy. Ogden remembers the drama and teamwork that ensued when the snow machine failed to work 3 hours before judging. "After troubleshooting the machine using methods that OSHA would cringe over, we figured out that the water pump was rusted shut," says Ogden, "We figured out that if we punched a hole in the liquid soap bottle and fed the fluid directly into the blower using gravity, it would work! Disaster averted!" Check out the full interview with Ogden here.
Our final WCBCC perspective comes from two of the 900 festival volunteers, Marcy Siebert and Jim Walker (both members of the DNA!). Siebert has been a BBQ volunteer for over 20 years, and in contrast, this was Walker's first BBQ fest. Both served as Whole Hog Ambassador volunteers, answering questions for and supporting Whole Hog contestants. While the blue-shirted volunteers always appear jovial, their smiles belie the heavy work that volunteering at the WCBCC requires! Imagine 4 back-to-back 12-hour days of trudging through mud, and in Siebert's case, all on a sprained ankle! But despite the labor, both highly recommend volunteering. "After 20 years I know a lot of teams and they are some of the nicest people ever," says Siebert, "Most learned of my sprained ankle and would force me sit and put ice on it. It is a family. Not only do they help the volunteers they help each other." You can read the full interview here.
It was an incredible event this year, and we can't wait until the 40th anniversary of the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest next May! For more information on the event and the full list of contest winners check out the WCBCC website.