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Madison Ribberfest

Auxiers have rib sauce in their blood

The brothers help run
Madison Ribberfest contest

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

MADISON, Ind. (August 2003) – From succulent pork spare ribs to tender beef brisket, barbecue cooking is more of an art form than a chore to Shawn Auxier of Hanover, Ind., and others who will take part in the professional cooking contest Aug. 15-16 at the second annual Madison Ribberfest.

David and Shawn Auxier

Photo provided

David and Shawn Auxier
during competition.

In a little more than a year, Auxier has gone from being a backyard barbecue enthusiast to a Kansas City Barbeque Society connoisseur. Last June, he attended a KCBS school in Madison to learn all about judging. Yes, Auxier wanted to judge a few contests. But it was an ulterior motive that had Auxier leaning on every word the instructor uttered.
“I wanted to learn to judge first so I knew what the judges were looking for (when I started to compete),” he said.
At barbecue school, Auxier said he learned to judge appearance, tenderness, texture and tastes of various meats, and to disregard personal preferences in favor of the best results. “You have to put your own tastes aside,” he said. Just because you don’t like a vinegar-based sauce, for example, doesn’t mean that it isn’t good.

Last year, Auxier judged at a few contests, including the first annual Madison Ribberfest. This year, he became the chief cook of the “Hog Wild and Pig Crazy” team.

Madison Ribberfest
Schedule of Events

• Hours: 5-11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sat., Aug. 15-16, on the Madison riverfront.
• Tickets: $15 for a 2-day pass through Aug. 1 (includes $10 food tickets); $15 for 2-day pass Aug. 2-15 (no food tickets); $10 per day Aug. 15-16.
• Band Schedule: Friday: Jimmy D (6 p.m.); Lee McBee Band (8 p.m.); Debbie Davies Band (10 p.m). Saturday: Johnny Reed & the House Rockers (noon); The Doctor’s Band (2 p.m.); The Blues Devils (4 p.m.); Mike Morgan (6 p.m.); Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers (8 p.m.); Duke Tumatoe (10 p.m.).
• Information: (812) 265-2956 or 1-800-559-2956
• Website: www.madisonribberfest.com

The team has competed in four competitions so far: Clarksville, Tenn., Winchester, Tenn., Mt. Vernon, Ill., and Cairo, Ill. Auxier was accompanied by his brother, David Auxier, in Clarksville where the team took fifth place in the pork category. In Winchester, Auxier was assisted by Burk Jones, placing ninth overall out of 48 teams. In Cairo, where he cooked on his own, Auxier took fourth place in pork.
Flipping burgers and hot dogs on a gas grill is tantamount to blasphemy to true barbecue experts – those who spend hours upon hours coaxing superior taste and premium texture from the finest cuts of meat. Just attend a KCBS sanctioned event, like Ribberfest, and it becomes obvious.
Slow cooking at just the right temperature with just the right seasonings is just part of the skill it takes to become grand champion. Appearance counts, too. No mushy clumps of pork floating in sauce will do. No kale, endive or red tipped lettuce garnishes either. Rules and regulations are very specific and when it comes time for judging, perfection is the key.
Judging is done by meat categories, which include chicken, pork ribs (loin or spare), pork (shoulder-butt-picnic) and brisket (beef). KCBS representatives carefully monitor all participants’ strict adherence to rules.

David and Shawn Auxier receive their award

Photo provided

David and Shawn Auxier with award.

KCBS started in Kansas, but the society actually represents various North American barbecue interests and sanctions more than 100 contests each year from Florida to British Columbia. Barbecue sauces and meats reflect regional tastes. For example, North Carolina barbecue typically has a tangy vinegar-based sauce, while Kansas City is known for a sweeter, thicker sauce.
Auxier said in addition to a love of competition and barbecue cooking, traveling to contests has provided him with the opportunity to promote Madison’s Ribberfest. As coordinator of this year’s barbecue cook-off event, Auxier said he hopes that the public will turn out to see some of the best barbecue cookers around. Just make sure you don’t disturb the contestants between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, what Auxier called the “crunch time” when participants are scrambling to prepare for judging.
The best time to talk to contestants and pick up hints for your next barbecue venture is after judging. You might even get to taste some of their treats. “After 2:30, there’s usually lots of handouts,” Auxier said.

Burk Jones displays samples at Judging School

Photo by Don Ward

Burk Jones displays samples
at the fall 2002 Judging School.

So far, 28 teams from Indiana, Kentucky and many of the surrounding states have registered for this year’s Ribberfest, with more expected before the final count. “I’m expecting we’ll have somewhere between 40-50 teams,” said Auxier. In addition to the KCBS-sanctioned categories will be judging of “Anything But,” which includes any meat not included in the four main categories, and dessert. Competitor’s tents will be set up along Vaughn Drive between Poplar and Vine streets and along Broadway. An amateur cooking contest will be held Friday evening.
There will also be great music to enjoy, with blues bands playing on stage Friday evening and all Saturday afternoon and evening. On Friday, there will be a hot balloon glow on the Milton, Ky. riverbank and visible from the Madison festival site. Balloon races are scheduled for Saturday.

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