Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ramblings: Coordinating a Competition

(photo by LG Patterson)

This is another in our series of articles providing an overview of the different roles for BBQ Competitions. Offering a different perspective on the roles of event organizers is Tara Hart.

Tara Hart is a Midwest girl who thrives on red meat and cold beer and whose BBQ competition experience is limited to her dad and brother’s cook-offs. She has been thrown into the fire (pun intended) with her involvement at this year’s Roots ‘N Blues ‘N BBQ Festival in October.

In 2007, the inaugural Roots ‘N Blues ‘N BBQ Festival (rootsnbluesnbbq.com) took place. The Festival has two separate components – a music festival and a BBQ competition. With lessons learned from last year’s competition, Jori Rose provides her take on the most important aspects of organizing a BBQ competition for this year’s event taking place Oct. 3-4.

Scheduling: Jori notes in an ideal situation, a BBQ competition is held on the same date year after year. However, when coordinating with another event, and taking into consideration other activities in the area, it was important to change this year’s date. What does that mean to the organizers? They get to start the sanctioning process all over! Applications, letters, and funds are resubmitted to KCBS.

Location: Take into consideration the need for a flat surface, convenient load-in access, emergency services access, and generator locations and you’ll realize it is not so easy to find a space in a populous downtown that can accommodate 66 competitors. There’s also the judging location, but Jori put the competitors before the judges and identified a great spot that will handle 66 competitors easily. If you’re #67, though, sorry…you’re out of luck!

City Officials: It’s not enough to just set up a contest in the parking lot. There are always city officials who are leaning over your shoulder making sure you adhere to the rules and regulations. It’s important to remember that those rules are in place to keep everyone safe…but it doesn’t always make it easy to make the rules work for your competition! After establishing what Jori thought was a great plan for parking and load-in, turns out she didn’t take into consideration emergency vehicle access. Back to the drawing board!

Categories: Last year, the festival had five competition categories and Jori wanted to continue to offer the most opportunities for the contestants. The fifth category last year was “anything but meat” which made judging difficult. How do you judge a cheesecake with the same eye as seafood? Jori decided to make sausage the fifth category based on the German influence in Missouri.

Costs: While many might find room to balk at the application fee for a competition, it’s important to remember that in most competitions, 100% of the application fee goes toward prize money and organizers often struggle to break even. Why? Consider the following costs: city permits, advertising, tent rental, generators, judging materials, signage, and manpower.

Volunteers: To help cut costs, Jori recruits the best volunteers to help with the competition. Volunteers work long hours on their feet and doing heavy lifting with little to show for their hard work aside from a t-shirt and sore muscles! Volunteers assist in everything from mapping out and marking contestant spaces, to delivering materials, and checking in competitors. KCBS also requires meat be inspected before grilled…where can you find five inspectors who will volunteer their time to arrive early and check meat? The University of Missouri, just down the street from the Festival is the perfect resource!

Trophies: Not everyone will win, but certainly everyone wants to have that badge of honor displayed in their home! In addition to cash, how can you find a trophy that will encourage folks to do their best BBQing? Last year the winners received hand-painted guitars (to tie into the music portion of the Festival) and this year Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion will be walking away with an engraved barstool!