Saturday, September 24, 2016

Celebrating Oinktoberfest

For my first contest in New York, I ventured to the town of Clarence, a suburb of Buffalo in the western part of the Empire State, where Oinktoberfest has been held for 15 years. The longest continually running barbecue competition in New York, Oinktoberfest has become a premier event to celebrate the arrival of fall as well and, of course, excellent barbecue.

The entrance of the Great Pumpkin Farm is all about the pumpkin.

Oinktoberfest is held at the Great Pumpkin Farm. The main attraction at the entrance is a pumpkin “patch” where children can wander through creative pumpkin displays. The fall decorations and pumpkin-themed exhibits make the farm an annual destination for many families.

Pumpkins greet the public on arrival at the Great Pumpkin Farm.

The weekend of Oinktoberfest is one of six weekends when the farm holds a fall festival and charges admission ($7 for ages 2 and up). Many attendees are families with young children who are entertained more by the carnival rides, farm activities, and Halloween-type attractions such as the “Boo Barn” than by the barbecue scene.

Teams set up for the competition; most participate in cookoffs on both days.

Most cooking teams set up in a back area away from festival activities, and some attendees might not even realize how many cooking teams are competing in the contest sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society. Most of the 54 cooking teams competing this year were from New York. An incentive for competing is that Oinktoberfest is the final event for determining the Empire State Champion. A few teams from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Ontario (Canada) also joined in the competition. The table where I was the captain included judges also from Ohio and Ontario. 

At least one judge wants everyone to know his hobby.

Oinktoberfest is actually a three-day event, beginning on a Friday night with music and family entertainment and attractions. On Saturday is the KCBS contest with the usual categories of chicken, ribs, pork, and brisket.

An early crowd lines up to enter the festival grounds at Great Pumpkin Farm.

For 2016, the theme of Oinktoberfest was “East Meets West” to recognize how Asia-inspired barbecue (such as Korean bulgogi, Chinese char siu pork, and Japanese yakitori) is becoming a part of barbecue’s growing popularity. As a result, Oinktoberfest included an optional fifth category of “Asian pot luck.”

Family activities attract a lot of attention at Oinktoberfest.

Oinktoberfest has firmly established itself as a premier barbecue competition. Being there was an enjoyable experience, and Oinktoberfest has definitely expanded the popularity of barbecue in western New York.

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