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North Carolina Barbecue Cookoff Championship 2010
Grill Girl's First BBQ Smoke Off Contest Visit

nc barbecue championship pink pig booth
Pink Pig Barbecue Contest Booth


showmanship bbq booth winner nc pork
NC BBQ Showmanship Winner


joe peterson barbecue grand champ winner
Joe Peterson - BBQ Pitmaster Champ


carla sweet larry sweet barbecue winner 2010 nc pork association
Larry and Carla Sweet - Carla WON!


whole hog pig barbecue smoker
BBQ Smoking a Whole Hog

Whoa piggy! Overnight pork barbecue smoke off competitions are a blast as I found out last night at the 2010 North Carolina State Championship Barbecue Cookoff sponsored by the NC Pork Council. It was my first competition barbecue trip, but I know I’m going to have to hit some more. That was quite the good time.

But – I Thought Grill Girl Did Barbecue

I do smoke barbecue which is a low and slow process versus the grilling which is high heat and quick. But, I am a home smoker and grill and smoke for family and friends. I do cuts like shoulders, butts, ribs, and chickens.

Folks do email and ask me about entering barbecue competitions and also about barbecue catering. But, I’m just not interested, because I enjoy outdoor cooking as a hobby, and I can’t lift a whole pig (-: 

I am, however, intrigued by the wild and crazy folks who haul gigantic smokers all over the country for bragging rights. So, when the NC Pork Council asked me if I’d consider blogging about the barbecue contest at Mayberry Days in Mount Airy, NC, I decided I ought to go check that out.

Jeeping Off to Mayberry (AKA Mount Airy, NC)

With some late night grading and quick packing, I was set to head to Mt. Airy right after work in my Golden Eagle Jeep. Then, I had some technical issues (don’t you hate those?) and ended up on the road a couple of hours later and somewhat on the sweaty and frazzled side. Fortunately, no one was stuck riding with my sweaty and grumpy self.

One of my college students looked at my Google driving directions and told me an easier way. Bless him. I only had to make one turn between work and the festival which is a good thing, because I have no sense of direction and can get lost between the living room and the bathroom if not careful.

Now What?

I was supposed to pick up a press pass from someone somewhere. When frazzled, such details sometimes escape me.

But – not to worry.

I saw the barbecue smokers and tents, and I pulled right in the tight, tiny lot thinking the police officer would tell me where to go. I smiled and waved, and he waved back. So, I just kept inching in the lot and parked in the empty no parking space. Boy, I love small towns.

Meanwhile, Harris (the lead barbecue judge) was calling me on my cell phone which I can’t use when driving, talking, or thinking. It also takes me a while to find my messages on there, so I found a picnic table and set up my equipment while Harris hunted me down. When lost, stay in one spot until help comes. That’s what the Boy Scouts told me. It works well.

Making the BBQ Rounds

There were 24 entries in the NC Barbecue Championship contest, and they all had to win other contests to get a spot in the North Carolina finals. There were all kinds of big names in barbecue including state representative Arthur Williams. I checked his photo beforehand, but I was not able to identify him in the sea of people at the festival. I may have him in a photo though.

The barbecue contestants were set up in rows kind of like the carnival, but each space included a truck or camper and tent with smoker. It was like a cross between a camp out and a rollicking tailgater.

Barbecue teams were busy setting up displays for the showmanship competition and also many were grilling dinner before the main whole hog smoking later. This was one busy crowd I can tell you.  

Joe Peterson and wife and crew offered me a bottle of water and food. I took them up on the water but needed to keep shooting photos and taking notes. They told me to come back later and eat, so they basically adopted me. Bless them. I showed back up later – just like a stray cat you feed once who knows a good deal when they see it. The chicken in Joe’s sauce, corn, and beans were fabulous, and boy howdy on the bread pudding – that was “slap yo momma” good.

Here Come the Judges

The judges arrived to judge the showmanship portion of the contest. That is basically how the teams decorate their spaces, but that is an understatement. Some of the teams went all out. The winner turned his tent into a movie theater complete with Andy Griffith shows playing inside. His smoker wouldn’t fit in the tent after he did all that decorating, but the weather was great, so that was no biggie.

Several of the teams did some performing along with the decorating. One lady put on a pig nose and played a porky version of Aunt Bea – the perfect Southern hostess. Buddy Moore and his guys threw a birthday party dressed as clowns to mark this being the 50th anniversary year since the Andy Griffith/Mayberry RFD show debuted. And, my buddies the Petersons, proved that pigs can fly, and I’ll leave it at that and let you wonder.

The Pigs are Here

The crowd started to get loud and wild, and I knew something was up. Sure enough. The meat had arrived.

The big meat truck backed down the row and each team got a pig one by one. The weights I heard were 121 pounds and 123 pounds, so these were some heavy pigs to wrestle off the truck and onto smokers.

I wandered around and watched the teams prepping the pigs, and it was interesting how they all used different techniques. One team was massaging the pig while the next was throwing water cloths over them.

Bunkering Down

Once the pig prep was done and the pigs were on the smokers, the teams kicked back to rest a bit and to babysit the smoking pigs all night. Yes. It does take all night to slow smoke a barbecue pig.

Haulin Hog (or maybe Hurlin Hog), the ones who won showmanship, gave me some ribs – their last rack. They were fall off the bone yummy but awfully good, and I had to undo the snap of my jeans on the way home after getting fed so much.

Just a Half Nighter (on site anyway)

I didn’t stay for the whole night, and most of the other women did not either. I thought about getting a hotel room, but Mount Airy is only an hour and a half drive except when you follow the I77 signs and make a circle around Mount Airy before getting back on 601 like my student suggested.

If my internet signal had been better, I might have spent the night and worked, but it was a slow load for sure. I headed on home and blogged before I fell flat on my face – full, tired, and happy.

How Did it Shake Out?

My contacts from the NC Pork Council hit me up with more information and photos as the morning after rolled in. Bless Harris and Angie. Good peeps.

Carla Sweet took first place, and she was the only female lead pitmaster. She’s only done seven pig cooks, and she went head to head with her husband Larry (the only smoker to use charcoal instead of gas). Congratulations to Carla!



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