Saturday, June 4, 2016

In Asheville for National Tour

More than 700 barbecue teams are competing again this year for $500,000 in cash and prizes in the Sam’s Club National Tour. The tour attracts some of the top cooking teams in the country, and being a judge is rewarding because the barbecue is so superior.

This year I was a judge in an initial qualifying event in Asheville, NC. At these events, thirty teams compete for the right to advance to a regional qualifying event where the top finishers are invited to the national event in October in Bentonville, Arkansas, where the grand champion takes home $50,000.

A table for demonstrations is set up beside The Sam's Club National BBQ Tour truck.

The tour started this year in February in Daphe, Alabama. Events continue almost every weekend until mid-September when the last regional event is held in Madison, Wisconsin. Michael McDearman, tour director, whom I met last year in North Charleston, SC, is one busy person as he travels to each site and organizes the events.

Michael McDearman, tour director, welcomes judges to the event in Asheville, NC.

At the judges’ meeting, McDearman emphasized how important the series is for promoting barbecue and encouraging teams to compete. The event in Asheville like the other local qualifying events had $10,000 in prize money. Smoking Butt Heads, the grand champion, won $2,000 and advanced to the regional qualifying event with the five other top teams. Although the prize money awarded in Asheville is important, the right to advance in the series is the best reward.

Cooking teams set up in the parking area of Sam's Club in Asheville.

Being a judge at a tour event was just as enjoyable as it was last year, and I hope to participate again next year. Evaluating teams that compete on the tour is a high point of participating as a judge.

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