Highlights from the Blue Ridge BBQ Festival — Eating America

On Eating America, Anthony Anderson visited the Blue Ridge BBQ Festival in Tryon, N.C.

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If You BBQ It, They Will Come

Every summer, more than 25,000 people visit the small town of Tryon, N.C., to watch the State Barbecue Championship and sample some of the best smoked specialties around. While the competitors are preparing, Anthony challenges a local kid to a bull-riding contest.

Competition in the Air

Even though it's held in a small town, this festival pulls in an impressive 75 competitors vying for $20,000 in cash prizes. The competition is open to all barbecue entries, the most popular of which are chicken, pulled pork and brisket.

A First-Timer

Although Shawne Shell isn't entering anything into the competition, he's getting attention for his over-the-top offerings. Anthony says he's never eaten elk before, so he takes his chances on an elk burger that Shawne says is very similar to deer.

The Debate About Fat

Wayne Blessing is a fourth-year competitor who got sixth place last year for his barbecue brisket. Going against what most chefs recommend, Wayne smokes his meat fat-side-down to help create a crunchy bark on the top. "It's one of those meats where you have to love it or it doesn't love you back," he says.

Wife Knows Best

Wayne's wife, Kim, helps prepare the meat by marinating it with a North Carolina Pilsner after it has been smoked with a two-layer dry rub. Although they seemed confident in their recipe, Kim says she made a small tweak before preparing it for the judges.

But It's Butt

Competitor Shane Blackwell likes to call it how it is: "It's called the shoulder of the butt. I don't know why they call it that, but it's a butt," he says. This is his fifth year competing, and with some hard work, this might be his first year winning.

Falling Off the Bone

Shane has been cooking barbecue since he was 10 years old in his family's local tavern. He knows the secret ingredient is a little bit of Cajun seasoning, and he also has the perfect test to find out when the meat is done: "Right there is how you know," he says as he easily pulls the bone out.

More Judges Than Competitors

The festival takes judging very seriously, with 80 judges tasting the dishes of 75 competitors. Each judge is certified by the Kansas City Barbecue Society and is rating based on appearance, tenderness and the true taste of the meat.

First Time's a Charm

Donny and Tracy Bray, first-time competitors, take the grand prize of $1,000 cash and the title of North Carolina State BBQ Champion for their barbecue chicken legs. Their secret? A "butter bubble bath" for the chicken.

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