DOVER, Ohio — They come with lighthearted names like the Swinestone Cowboys, or Warren County Pork Choppers, or the Parrothead Smokers. But these competitive teams are serious about barbecue.
The Tuscarawas County Farm Bureau and OSU Extension are teaming up to host a competitive barbecue and burnoff event — the Camp Meigs BBQ Bootcamp and Burnoff — May 3-4 at the Tuscarawas County Fairgrounds in Dover to benefit the Community Hospice of Tuscarawas County.
Organizers wanted to find a way to blend food and farming and education, and since competitive grilling contests abound on television channels like the Food Network, the event seemed like a perfect idea.
“We always want to promote our products, so we’re promoting our beef, pork and our chicken,” said Steve Quillin, president of the county Farm Bureau. “And we always want to interact with people and talk about where their food comes from and how it’s raised.”
There are currently 10 teams entered, but there’s room for up to 20 teams, so you can still call the Farm Bureau office at 330-339-7211 to register.
“What really got me is how passionate these guys are,” said dairyman Jim Rowe, who is chairing the event. “Barbecuers are as passionate about barbecuing foods, as a farmer is about a beautiful field of alfalfa.”
It was Rowe who suggested the idea of making the event a fundraiser for the local hospice, remembering how his own family was helped by their services when his father died.
“It just a weight off the family’s shoulders when hospice comes in and helps with a loved one,” Rowe said. “I always thought that if we’d ever do an event, we’d tie hospice into it somehow.”
The event is more than just a barbecue burnoff, though, which is where the “bootcamp” part comes in.
In addition to the competition, the event includes an educational component Saturday morning coordinated by the local OSU Extension office. Sessions include selecting a grill, food safety, grilling seafood and wild game, meat cut selection for grilling, grilling ribs, and even a session for children on grilling (this class is limited to the first 12 who sign up).
And, of course, there will be a session on competitive barbecuing for spectators who might want to get into the action next year.
About the contest. It was at about the third or fourth organizational meeting, when someone had the gumption to ask, “Do we really know what we’re doing here?”
And when they started looking at rules and judging and timing, Farm Bureau Organization Director Michele Specht said they really had to admit, “well, not really.”
That’s when they discovered they had an expert in their backyard.
Dave Potts, of New Philadelphia, who designs and manufactures archery and hunting equipment, has been in several competitions with his Back Porch BBQ team.
“I started playing around with it (barbecuing) 15 years ago, and just kept getting more and more involved,” Potts said.
Today, he even makes and sells a barbecue rub with the Back Porch BBQ label.
Potts joined their team and is coordinating the barbecue contest, aligning the rules and judging with those used by the Kansas City Barbecue Society. He’s also secured local chefs and judges certified by the barbecue society, and a few “celebrity” judges for the Tuscarawas County event.
Individuals can enter in the chicken, ribs, pulled pork or brisket categories, or all of them, which qualifies them to win the grand prize. All categories have cash prizes to fourth place.
Spectators can sample participants’ barbecued items starting at noon on Saturday, and vote for a People’s Choice winner.
Teams will come in Friday night to set up and attend a cooks’ meeting, but there will also be a host of family activities offered between 4-8 p.m. at the fairgrounds, including carnival games, the archery trailer from the Ohio Division of Wildlife, bouncy house and giant inflatable slide, obstacle course, and classic rock music by the Retrovox Band from 6-8 p.m.
Admission to the grounds Friday is free, sponsored by Kuester Implement; tickets for the individual children’s games are 25 cents, with all proceeds going to the Community Hospice.
Admission to the public Saturday is $5, which gives spectators a wristband to sample barbecue tastings starting at noon, and attend any of the morning educational sessions. Children 12 and under will be admitted free. The event opens at 9 a.m., with awards presented at 3:30 p.m.
Both days, at least 15 vendors with commercial displays will be open, selling anything from barbecue rub or sauces, to a smoker or grill unit.
In addition to the barbecue sampler, other foods will be available for sale on the grounds.
For more information, visit the Camp Meigs BBQ Bootcamp and Burnoff website.