pits friends against friends
has become a popular
free eating event at festival
Helen Bertsch travels from Waterford, Mich., to Madison,
Ind., every August. She comes to see her mom. She brings her daughters
to reconnect with family. And, oh yes, she joins her sister and sister-in-law
as Team Pig n Boots in their favorite cooking contest of the year
the Backyard BBQ Blast, the amateur cooking contest at the
photo by Don Ward
Horan of Scottsburg,
Ind., bastes ribs during a
Take a side of ribs, add a hot grill and a group of friends,
and you have a backyard cook-off. Throw in a few more friends and a
view of the Ohio River and you have the 11th annual Backyard BBQ Blast,
sponsored by the Madison Courier.
At 6 a.m. Friday, Aug. 17, amateur grill masters from all over the region
will gather on Vaughn Drive to set up their grills, begin smoking their
meats and spend the day in friendly competition. Teams vie for bragging
rights in five categories chicken, ribs, pork, beef and
game/other. Teams can also compete for top prize in best rub, best sauce,
best contraption and best team spirit.
The Bash pits brothers against sisters and coworkers against each other
for top recognition in grilling prowess.
Bertsch has come for the last decade. The festival is just great.
Listening to the music, connecting with friends every year its
just great. I wouldnt miss it.
She says she gets up around 4:30 to get everything together
then get downtown as close to 6 a.m. as possible. You have to
get the meat smoking quickly so it has a good eight to 10 hours to smoke.
The first couple of hours are very busy. But once I get everything going,
I can sit back and see who else is coming.
Bertsch says she especially enjoys the time with friends and notes that
everybody looks out for each other. I arrive by myself, but there
are always people to help me unload and set up. Its a very friendly
Steve Thomas, owner of Thomas Family Winery and organizer of the Backyard
BBQ Blast, focuses on keeping the competition fun for all. You
know during the summer when neighbors get together to grill out, and
pretty soon theres a competition to see who turns out the best
food? Thats the Blast just on a bigger scale.
While camaraderie rules the day, the teams also work hard. They can
pick from among the categories or enter all five. Entries are judged
on appearance, texture and taste. While the meats are smoking, team
members visit each other to trade samples and tips. But at 5:30 p.m.,
when teams begin turning in their entries every 30 minutes, the mood
turns serious as teams face the judges.
Thomas presents the final awards at 9 p.m. on the Blues Bash stage.
Carolyn Barnes of Lexington, Ky., says she looks forward to returning
to the Blast each year. She competed with her brother, Kevin Phelps,
every year as Half Fast BBQ Team. When he moved away, she stopped competing.
Upon his return, they have teamed up again and expanded to other family
members, including her son, Joe, and husband, Jack, to form two teams.
The entire family will vie for bragging rights within the family. Barnes
says she focuses primarily on getting the spices just right. Each year
she looks forward to creating a unique taste that will impress the judges.
Barnes encourages everyone to come down the day of the Blast and check
out the competition. Its a great time to meet people and
get tips from the teams and see what they are doing. Its a great
learning experience. Many times people will ask us questions, and we
enjoy sharing what we know with them. If you like a smoker, give this
competition a try.
She also notes that the participants truly appreciate when people recognize
that the teams are getting to a busy portion of the day when
meats need attention or when turn-ins begin and let the
teams get back to work. But when there is a down time, she loves to
share what she knows with others to get them to come compete the next
If you would like to test your grilling skills against others and perhaps
learn a few new tricks, visit: www.MadisonRibberfest.com, click on BBQ,
then on Backyard Blast for all the details and entry forms.
Back to 2012 Ribberfest