Monday, September 8, 2008

Little Blue BBQ - Fairbury, NE

This is just the type of competition I like. It’s a small contest in a small town. The prize money is pretty small too, but we’ve never been into chasing the big scores anyway, so that hasn’t ever mattered much to us. It’s just a nice place with a nice feel and we’ve always done well there.

Back in 2006, Dodge County Smokers scored a Grand Championship here and last year we finished fourth. We were really looking forward to the trip up this year and we were primed for strong finish.

Last year we recruited my brother-in-law, Eric, to cook chicken and ribs as a separate team, just in case the contest needed him to reach the 25 team “qualifier” mark. Eric chose the name Czechland Smokers, a tribute to his polka-dancing, beer-drinking, kolache-eating heritage.

Eric was back this year with his Bohemian buddy, Doug, set up right next to us - and this year they went all in, cooking in all four categories. Last year he did pretty good, scoring Top 10 finishes with both of his entries. This year Chris and I brought the meat, rubs and sauce for him and he supplied a couple of modest smokers along with some seasonings of his own. We put a plan together for cooking his brisket, pork, ribs and chicken and Czechland Smokers were off and cooking!

Set up on the other side of our tent was Pork Me Purple …that’s our buddy Jerrod and his dad, Bill. Last month Jerrod was looking for one last contest to cook for the year and I threw out the possibility of him coming up to this one. It worked out with his schedule and we were happy to have him along side of us. We even co-hosted a good sized Friday night feed complete with some awesome rib eye steaks and really good smoked sausage from Jerrod. We cooked a pretty damn good pork loin and we had loads of great sides too. It was a great meal and a very fun evening.

The cooking part of the weekend went pretty smooth. I had a few time & temp mistakes, but nothing that we haven’t run into before. It got COLD too! We had all of the sidewalls up on the tents and we keep it above 65, but it was chilly every time we’d step outside.

When it came time to box our entries, Chris and I each took turns running over to Eric and Doug’s tent to give them an idea of how to arrange their meat in the box. I have to say that from what I saw, they did an excellent job on their presentations.

I felt pretty good about our brisket entry. I thought pork and chicken were OK and our ribs just didn’t have the pop we are used to getting out of them…although they were still good. But what we think about the product doesn’t make any difference. It’s all about the judges’ scores.

The top six in each category were recognized at the awards, and we did OK with a 2nd place brisket and 3rd place pork. I was hoping for a chicken and a rib call as well, but it wasn’t going to happen for us this day. I may have been more excited to hear Czechland Smokers’ name for 2nd place pork. What was that? They beat us?! I have to say we were pretty proud of those guys. They worked hard and I hope they had fun.

Pork Me Purple also came up big with huge 1st place chicken call and when it was all said and done, Jerrod snagged the very cool Grand Championship trophy!

Chris and I didn’t do so bad ourselves, earning a Reserve Grand Championship, but the surprise of the day may have been the 3rd place overall finishers…

At the conclusion of the awards, we all took our place in line to get the results and scores on paper. Chris grabbed ours and Eric took his. We all walked back to our seats and Eric flipped open the overall scoring page and started looking for their name, reading from the bottom of the 25 team list and going up. As he was reading closer and closer to the top of the page he said “I think they forgot about us…”

That’s when Doug looked over his shoulder and pointed near the top of the page. I’ll be damned if those guys didn’t take 3rd place! And they finished just three points behind us too! Eric seemed pretty stunned.

That strong 3rd place showing meant we all finished the contest in the order we were lined up. I guess it was a “Winner’s Row” of sorts, with Jerrod set up to on our west side and Eric and Doug on the east side. 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Pretty cool!

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