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Traditional turn in at Hog Wild

Wow… where to begin… what a fabulous day…

Carl and I arrived at the site about 715am and started doing our rounds making sure everything was going smoothly… and it was! What an amazing group of volunteers they have… if we can be half as lucky we will be blessed! I helped set up the bark yard BBQ judging tent and took part in the team meeting where I introduced the Nanaimo BBQ Festival and then again with the Judges meeting. Wild Hogs has unique way of doing things… their backyard teams are the ones who hand out people’s choice samples and they have their own separate category for judging, but that is not what makes them unique… they also have a tasters choice award where judges go around to their sites and taste whatever the team is preparing the way they want to serve it. KCBS judging has certain rules… for example the meat has to be attached to the bone for ribs but if the backyard teams for tasters choice wants to serve their falling off the bone they can… the only rule that I could tell was the meat had to be cooked!!! The backyard teams also had a chance to enter a second entry that would be judges by KCBS professional standards so they could see how they would rank against the professional teams as the judging between backyard and pro’s are different. This allows the backyard a chance to see if they could compete at the professional level and change their status for their next competition.

I then went to the pro tent where I would working turn in… I was first point of contact with the teams as they brought in their entry… this was a lot of fun… the teams were SO humble hoping that their meat was good enough and so generous with their statements of “good luck” to whatever team was around… the sense of family was evident. Fortunately no team was late… KCBS has a rule that if turn in time is noon then teams can hand their entries in between 11:55 and 12:05. At 12:05 the official clock gets turned over and no more entries are permitted and the team defaults in that category if they are late. There have been times when the clock hits the table seconds before an entry lands and it can’t count… I would be heartbroken and I am so glad it didn’t happen…

It is at the urn in table that the double blind part of judging occurs. Each team is given a number when they arrive. This number must appear on any turn in they have and all packaging is exactly the same (With the exception of desserts… they can be handed in any way they want). KCBS reps have issued a second number to each team and at turn in each entry’s number is now covered by their new number and then put on a tray with 5 other entries before going to the judges who are not able to see the turn in tables or the teams… and the teams never get to see their new number. It’s pretty slick! And none of the photos taken in the judges tent are allowed to include the numbers.

Between turn ins I got to go around and see the teams getting ready, watch KCBS reps start to tally the scores (more on this later) and got to visit the grazing tables. The grazing tables were where the left over entries went after the judges had taken their portions… I got to try all levels of quality… and let me tell you the good stuff… oh my… was SO good… totally ruined any future dining experience I will have!

So now the 4 categories are done – chicken, ribs (which I totally missed out tasting), butt and brisket… and now onto desserts… Desserts is an optional side contest and again… have ruined any future dessert experiences I may have. I would have to say that 75% of what I tasted was so far beyond anything I have had… My favourite was the tiramisu… I am pretty sure I can die happy knowing I have had the best tiramisu!!! In all honestly everything was really good… I just love a good tiramisu but I could just have easily picked any of the entries… there was not one I didn’t think was worthy of being there… and they were all so pretty…

So onto the score tally… this takes a while… each judge is given a score card and typically each score card scores 6 entries (so any give judge will have tried 6 entries in each of the 4  categories) then the score cards are taken by the reps and put into a computer program which calculates the scores. Now this sounds simple enough but there were 60-ish pro judges and 40-ish backyard judges… each with 24 scores… plus dessert… plus the sauce and seafood from the night before… So the reps enter the scores and then audit the scores and then print the scores… they don’t have a long time to do this… they start right after first turn and then have under 4 hours to get it all finished… they really hustle to make this happen.

Meanwhile in the rest of the fair grounds (there were about 12,000 people there and fortunately the rain held off)… backyard teams are handing out people’s choice samples, kids are playing in bouncy castles, young performers are in the family area putting on shows, food vendors are busy (the line up for homemade ice cream was about 60 people long and showing no signs of slowing down), non food vendors were selling their wares, bands were playing on the main stage and everyone have a great time… there was one tent which was drawing a big crowd so I stopped to see what was happening and it was a pro vs joe wrestling match… brave souls from the crowd would agree to wrestle a trained wrestler to see if they could win… the “joe” I watched put up a really good fight but in the end was pinned…

And the day would not be complete without a visit with Dan… I bumped into him when looking for the ladies room and he made of point of distinguishing the “pointers” from the “sitters” bathroom doors for me in typical southern assistance!! It took me a second to cypher his accent and understand his humour while he sat there with his anticipatory grin waiting for the light to go off!!

Then it was time for the awards and everyone gathered around the main stage… It was fun to watch the teams come up for their awards… they all displayed different levels of excitement but the pride came shining through… Grand Master was John and Kathy Swift with Kathy sporting her infamous big hat! There was also an award given in the name of Carolyn’s late husband who co-founded the KCBS. The award was given to John Swift in recognition of all he does for the BBQ community…

Overall, this experience was well worth the trip… of course the BBQ was fun but what I found to have the most impact for me was the kindness, generosity and support… the good parts of human nature. The world of BBQ has a camaraderie that is so inspiring and is indicative of what we are trying to achieve with the Nanaimo Barbecue Festival… the sense of community… There was a team from the north who had flown down to pick up a food vending van that had been custom made for them and were driving home when they passed a team on the highway they knew. So they pulled over to have a quick visit and were told that another team’s grandfather had just passed and were now short help for the contest… graciously the food vendors, who knew the team that was short help, turned around and spent the weekend assisting… I have been told this is a normal gesture of kindness that exists in this world… it makes me smile and warms my heart… we should all be so kind…

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