|The Lakeland Pigfest has been held for 20 years.|
When the opportunity to return to Lakeland, Florida, for a barbecue contest became available, I jumped at the chance. Being in Florida in January to enjoy warm temperatures and combining the travel with judging barbecue is a great combination.
|Pig In or Pig Out competed in the pro division of Pigfest.|
Although Lakeland is a nine-hour drive from my home, the destination makes the journey more than worthwhile. I decided to stay a week more than last year in Florida after I was notified by contest organizers that I would be a judge. The extra time gave me and my family time to explore the panhandle of the state, visit Gulf Coast beaches, and spend several days at Walt Disney World – and miss a snow and ice storm in my home area.
|Judges mingle before the competition begins.|
Another change this year is that I was able to judge in the “pro” division, which is for the highly competitive teams (last year I judged in the “backyard” division of the Lakeland Pigfest). Participating as a judge in the “pro” division was phenomenal. The meats were exceptional, particularly the briskets.
|Fired & Wired was one of the teams competing in the backyard division.|
The Pigfest is one of only four events in January sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society. Two are in foreign countries (Italy and Australia). If a cooking team wants to compete in January in the United States, it has to choose the Pigfest or a BBQ throwdown in Denver. Quite a few choose the Pigfest, which has been the host to more than 200 teams from 17 states since it began in 1997.
|The Smoke Shack team had the tallest signs but placed low (57 out of 58 teams) in the pro division.|
The pro event attracted 58 cooking teams from all over the country, and the backyard competition attracted an equally large number of teams -- requiring the organizers to field a huge number of certified judges: six judges and a table captain are needed for each increment of six cooking teams.
|The perfect way -- homemade ice cream -- to end a day of judging barbecue.|