Saturday, January 30, 2016

Judging in a Kids Contest

When I had the opportunity to judge in a barbecue contest involving only children, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. However, when I saw the competition for kids under the age of 16 at the Pigfest last year in Lakeland, Florida, I was impressed with the enthusiasm that children bring to an event and the joy that they express when they receive prizes and trophies.

A grandfather offers advice to an aspiring barbecue cook.

The annual Pigfest has included a “Kids Q” contest as part of its activities since 2004. It begins early in the morning, and all judging is completed well before judges have to be ready for the adult competition. After watching the Kids Q in 2015, I wanted to be a judge for this event when I returned to Lakeland for another contest.

Kids prepare meats for their grills.

At Lakeland, the children cook on their own grills in a designated area. Although I enjoyed seeing them labor over their grills under the watchful eye of a grandparent or other mentor, the highlight is the awards ceremony at the main stage. Trophies and prizes are awarded to the winners, plus every child get to keep the grill used in the contest. Another special moment is when youthful contestants parade by the “seasoned” judges, who rise and applaud as they turn in their final entries.

A watchful parent guides a young barbecue competitor.

The contest is divided into two age groups: 11 to 15, and 10 and under. During the cooking process, a parent or guardian has to be present with each child. Although contestants can be helped with fires or slicing, each child had to do all the preparation, cooking, and presentation.

Kids Q competitors parade by the judges, who stand and applaud as chicken is brought for evaluation.

Judges use the KCBS evaluation forms of a regularly sanctioned event to rate the entries for appearance, taste, and tenderness. Although the contest complies with KCBS rules, the children compete in only two categories – steak and chicken (rather than the four – chicken, ribs, pork, and brisket – of a regularly sanctioned event). A local grocery store chain provides the meat to the children, so except for the registration fee, their expenses are limited.

Kids line up to turn in their chicken entries.

Lakeland officials are making sure that cooking barbecue in their area doesn’t become a lost art. By holding Kids Q, they are grooming a new generation of barbecue fans and helping older family members pass on a hobby to younger members. It’s a great event that should be adopted by more contest organizers.

A Kids Q judge thinks about a score to record.

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