Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Illinois State BBQ Championship:
Shannon, IL (Part One)

Our trip to Shannon, Illinois for the Butt to Butt X Invitational and the Illinois State BBQ Championship was an actioned packed weekend. It’s taken a few days to get my thoughts together, but here is the first in a series of posts that I’ll make about the trip.

This was a trip that I had been looking forward to for over a year…Ever since we qualified for the Butt to Butt Invitational by scoring a first place pork call at the Great American BBQ contest in May, 2007. Since that day I’ve been mapping out routes to Shannon, Illinois (pop. 900) and we’ve been trying to perfect our pork recipe.

Our original plans including renting an RV so both Chris and I could bring our families. After much consideration, common sense prevailed and we ended up leaving the kids with family, but taking our wives. We found a nice cabin at a little resort not far from Shannon for Jammie and Jenny while Chris and I camped out at the cook site Thursday and Friday Night.

The drive up to Shannon wasn’t hard. Maybe a little long (about 450 miles)…but not hard. We arrived around 3:30 in the afternoon and quickly set up. We ran into a few storms on the way up and one had just hit the grounds before we got there. The ground was wet, but not (yet) muddy.
We started to unload our gear, with the sky still dark and cloudy to the east, but the sun shining in the west. After we got situated, we took the short drive out to the cabins to check in, then came back to town.
Thursday night we enjoyed a fantastic dinner at the home of Mike & Teresa Lake. Mike puts this contest on and really does a great job. Hosting a ribeye steak dinner for the Butt to Butt cooks complete with all the trimmings at his home is the perfect example showing why this competition is so special.

We had just gotten back to the park and made sure our camp was secure, then set out for a nice evening walk to Mike & Teresa’s place. We weren’t even out of the park yet when Johhny Trigg pulled along side of us with Rod Gray of Pellet Envy riding shotgun. Johnny offered us a ride in the back of his pickup up to dinner. A ride from the only two-time Jack Daniel’s World Invitational Champ? How could we resist? That may be as close as we ever get to Lynchburg, Tennessee. We put the tailgate down and rode and rode the “Old School vs. High Tech Express” up the street just in time for the dinner bell.

This was truly a gathering of BBQ legends…all sitting around modest tables in a two-car garage enjoying steak and potatoes. And those steaks were incredible! They tasted great and nearly covered our whole plate. I was looking forward to eating Jammie’s leftovers…but she ate the whole thing! (Side note: my favorite cut to grill at home is a ribeye…she has yet to eat a whole steak of mine).

Nights like this are something that can only happen in a small town in the Midwest and it’s an evening that I’ll never forget.

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