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Porkin' Out

Local amateurs have contracted
the rib-cooking bug for Madison Ribberfest

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

MADISON, Ind. (August 2004) – Before competing in the Backyard BBQ Blast, the amateur portion of the Madison Ribberfest, Chris Cammack of Madison admitted that he didn’t really know that much about barbecue cooking. “We had the misconception that barbecuing was throwing a steak on a gas grill,” said Cammack, 32, brand manager for Grote Manufacturing.

Madison Cover

Madison Cover
of the August Issue

What Cammack discovered after combing the Internet for information, he said, is that “the true definition of barbecue is ‘a tough cut of meat cooked slowly over a low temperature until tender.’ “
Armed with this knowledge and a cooker built by his welder-father, Mike Cammack, 55, Chris and his father formed “Wildcat BBQ.” The team took first place in brisket and third in pork in the inaugural Blast in 2002.
After experiencing success locally in the amateur competition, the Cammacks last year decided to see how their cooking measured up against seasoned pros. Discarding their homemade cooker for a professional model by Austin National Smokers, they set out for Lawrenceburg, Tenn., where they competed against 35 teams in their first Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned competition. They finished 15th overall.
Cammack recalled with good humor the trial and error of the event. “That first contest we looked like something out of the Beverly Hill Billies, with stuff piled high in the back of the truck. We didn’t really know what we were getting into. I think had the next contest not been in Madison, we probably wouldn’t have done it,” he said.
Although on the return trip from Tennessee they lost the poles to their tent, the Cammacks decided to compete in Ribberfest, anyway. They took first in the “Anything Butt” category and third in ribs. They prepared lamb for the Anything Butt category, which encompasses meat not included in the four main categories. “It was the first time I had ever eaten lamb, let along cooked it,” Cammack said.
The team also competed last year in the Lion’s Club BBQ & Bluegrass Fest in Crestwood, Ky., finishing third in pork and 10th overall.
So far, the Cammacks have competed twice this year in KCBS-sanctioned events, in April in Clarksville, Tenn., where they took first place in chicken, and in June in Mt. Vernon, Ill., where they finished 10th in brisket.

Mark Auxier Cooking

Photo by Don Ward

Mark Auxier cooking at the 2002 amateur contest.

“We’ve won something in every standard category now,” said Cammack. He added that his primarily goal now is to win the Best of Jefferson County, won last year by Pig Pak. It is one of the Madison-based teams Cammack said he usually runs into when out on the circuit. Hog Wild and Pig Crazy is another. “It’s friendly competition. We always have a lot of fun with those guys,” Cammack said.
The Pig Pak team, composed of John Branigan, Mike DeShong, David Baratti and Merrill Nay, has made a name for itself both locally and on the KCBS circuit. In addition to Ribberfest, in which last year the team won first in brisket, eighth overall and “Best of Jefferson County,” the team has successfully competed in numerous KCBS-sanctioned events over the past three years. Pig Pak’s best finish was last year in Gallatin, Tenn., where it received Reserve Grand Champion. The team’s goal is to received a grand championship, which would allow it to compete in the American Royal national competition in Kansas City and the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational in Lynchburg, Tenn.
“We’re still looking for that one,” said Pig Pak team member Merrill Nay.
Hog Wild and Pig Crazy, the team of brothers Shawn and David Auxier, has also traveled to various KCBS events. Shawn Auxier, also a KCBS-certified judge and co-chair of this year’s Madison Ribberfest, said he would compete in a limited number of KCBS events this year because of a hectic schedule.
Like Wildcat BBQ, the Madison-based Smoked Signals team this year is moving up to KCBS competition after a successful Blast experience last year. The team, comprised of Doug Spiller, wife JoAnne Spiller and parents Don and Diane Spiller, won first place in the amateur competition for its chicken and ribs. “I was really surprised. I didn’t even taste my ribs until after I turned them in,” said Doug Spiller, who has served on various Ribberfest committees since its inception and is a KCBS-certified judge. Smoked Signals will compete in its first KCBS event at Ribberfest with sponsorship from RE/MAX. Spiller said he will use a “Big Green Egg” brand ceramic cooker provided by

Father Son Cammack

Photo by Don Ward

Father and son Mike (left)
and Chris Cammack.

Tony Steinhardt.
The popularity of Ribberfest, both locally and regionally, has inspired Cammack to form the Heartland Barbecue Association. Cammack said he hopes the association can help increase interest and create additional competition opportunities throughout Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan.
“We’ve already got 40 to 50 teams that are interested in doing something,” said Cammack, who plans to hold an informal meeting with teams during Ribberfest.
Spiller said that he likes the idea. “I think Chris has hit on a good idea to help bring the local barbecuers together,” he said.
Cammack said he would like to see more communities, particularly in Indiana, sponsor events. Ribberfest is currently the only barbecue cook-off event of its kind in the state. As a result, the winner of this event automatically qualifies as the Indiana State Champion for the KCBS’ American Royal national competition.

• For more information about the Madison Ribberfest bands, activities and tickets, visit our Madison Ribberfest page, or log onto the official Madison Ribberfest website.

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