"There is no real dividing line between 'pro' and 'amateur' cooks in the competition [barbecue] world that is consistent from one event to another," said BBQ Contest Organizer Gowan Fenley. "... Our event is a good opportunity for these novice teams to test their mettle against the big boys because we pay cash for finishing anywhere in the top 10 teams overall -- most events only pay for first and second place -- and our entry fee is relatively low."
Thirty-five teams representing six states scattered the park during the Jack Daniels World Championship qualifying event sanctioned by the Kansas City BBQ Society -- the world's largest competitive cooking organization. The competition is a Georgia BBQ Championship series event and was declared a Georgia State Championship by Gov. Nathan Deal at the inaugural event last year. It also is an American Royal Invitational qualifying event.
KCBS event organizer Samantha Berry was positive about the event.
"Things are going great, we have beautiful weather and a great turnout," Berry said. "We've got our cornhole tournament going on, we've got children's rides and our petting zoo open."
Tim Thomas of Cartersville, who builds cookers and operates T.N.T. Southern Barbecue, has been bringing his original cooking to competitions for about eight years, finishing in the top 10 during last year's Euharlee Covered Bridge 'Que.
"The grand champion here will get his name in the hat and will be able and will be able to draw for [the Jack Daniels World Championship] ... if you win at a qualifying event then your name goes into a hat and they draw [a winner]. It may be from Georgia, you never know," Thomas said.
He said the competition aspect can be grueling, having to turn in items ranging from chicken to brisket at different times.
"You've got 30 minutes between turn in times and so you take your chicken [for example] and your prep work and presentation and you've got a 10-minute window," Thomas said. "By the time you do that you've got your next category and you've got to get it ready and in the boxes and so it gets pretty hectic nearing the turn in stage."
KCBS Representative Phillip Brazier explained these particular competitions operate on a circuit.
"It's a lot like NASCAR, we've got teams here that are packing up and heading to Greenwood, [S.C.], next weekend. They're already talking about Dillard in the first of August," Brazier said.
He agreed with Thomas that while the competition can be fierce, there is a sense of camaraderie amongst the contestants.
"If someone shows up to a contest and they've forgotten their meat or it has gone bad, usually one of the teams will have some extra and give it to them," Brazier said. "It's not cut throat -- except for recipes."
Also on board for the event was a Xtreme Car, Truck and Motorcycle show, part of a seven show series.
"They're judged in 11 categories ... and in each of the 11 categories there [are] be three awards given out in each class," said Event Organizer Robert Graham, adding there were competitors from Alabama and Tennessee. "It's been a pretty good series. It's something that's kind of new to the car show industry and we're kind of taking it to the next level."