Main Event: Grill of my dreams

Dan and Kim Olson, of Grandma's Gourmets in Albert Lea, grill up some chicken wings during the third annual Med City BBQ Friday, August 10, 2012 at the Olmsted County Fairgrounds. "It's really fun and they do a good job putting it on," said Kim.

Something was in the air at this Aug. 10-11 event at the Olmsted County Fairgrounds: the tantalizing smell of barbecue.

The delicious nonprofit event, called Med City BBQ, raised about $10,000 for the Rochester Police Benevolent Association and Rochester Police Athletic League.

Involving 47 teams from across the Midwest, the competition is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society.

One team, named "Cigar-B-Que," was four guys from Rochester who "started by just getting together in our backyards," said team member Scott Bagne. "We competed last year and had a great time, so we are back."

"We like it because it’s blackened cooking, not a black-tie event," said visitor Michelle Schmidt, who with her husband, Terry, was hoping to pick up tips from the cooks.


"This is a good time for all of us," said Kathy O’Neil, from Canadian Honker, an event sponsor. "There are so many variations on the four categories of competition: pork ribs, chicken, pork and beef brisket."

BBQ in each category had to be ready precisely on time, with officials marking the entries with code numbers so each was judged "blind." Forty-seven judges are trained in appraising a barbecue's appearance, taste and tenderness.

Many of the competing teams were travelers from one cook-off to another, their list of catchy names — We Be Porken, the Missing Pig, The Oinkologists, and Tippy Canoe BBQ Crew — as varied and unique as their recipes.

"The secret is in the slow-cooking. We began at 9 last night," said a member ofa team called Grumpy Old Men.

A requirement that the meat be cooked over wood, wood pellets or charcoal meant, for many competitors, camping out to tend the fires for hours overnight.

"That’s part of the fun about these competitions," said one of the competitors from team Spitfire.

The contests' popularity is growing across the country, with the sport featured in such TV shows as "BBQ Pitmasters." Rochester was no exception, with the biggest crowd to date in the event's third year.

The two-day affair was full of activities. One new activity, offered Friday night, was a People’s Choice Chicken Wing Contest, with wings donated by Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe.


The event also featured live music on the Andy's Liquor and Canadian Honker Stage.

Jamie Lea Wellick, operations director of the Police Athletic League and the event organizer, said interactions between the cooks and the crowd are important.

"When they aren't cooking, we invite participants to mingle with the crowd," she said. "It’s an important part of this event.

Grills Gone Wild, from Algona, Iowa, won the Grand Champion title.

"We look forward to bringing the event back again next year and expect it to continue to grow," Wellick said. 

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