You roll into Lynchburg and instantly notice something is different. The normal vibe of this sleepy little one-red-light-town has been replaced with the pulse of activity.
You spot a national news truck in the distance and people buzz around you like bees looking for their hive. Smoke billows in the backdrop. If you strain your ear, you can just hear the faint chorus of a bluegrass song.
A man in a bowler hat and a white apron just passed you with what looked like a Secret Service entourage. “I wonder who that was,” you think to yourself before you get distracted by the unmistakable tangy, sweet smell of barbecue. Nose to the air, you start to track that smell as your mouth begins to water.
If it’s October in Lynchburg, this can only mean one thing. You’ve arrived – either by design or by grace – at the annual Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue. Soon, 25,000 of your closet friends you’ve never met will join you.
The Battle for The Jack
Sure, there’s a parade, a live radio broadcast, barrel raising demonstrations, arts and crafts vendors, live music, fun games and a host of contests but to the 70 teams who’ve traveled once again to the Mecca of barbecue, the fourth Saturday in October means battle … an all-out, no-holds-barred, fight to leave southern middle Tennessee with The Jack – what competitors call the world championship of barbecue – and bragging rights for the next 364 days.
Barbecue teams from as close as Nashville and as far away as the Netherlands convene in Lynchburg to be judged by Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) judges in four meat categories: pork ribs, pork butt/shoulder, beef brisket and chicken. There are also categories for dessert and barbecue sauce flavored with a little of the local product.
To qualify, domestic teams must have won a state championship with a minimum of 25 teams entered, or a competition with more than 50 teams battling in the four competition categories.
The final competitors are then selected during a blind drawing of all eligible teams in early September called the Bung Draw – so named because Distillery officials draw whiskey bungs out of a miniature barrel to determine the teams.
As per tradition, the 2011 Jack Daniel’s Grand Champion, Smokin’ Hoggz, received an automatic invitation to return and defend their title. The current season’s grand champions at Memphis in May, American Royal Open and Houston World’s Championship Bar-B-Que also receive automatic invitations.
Written by Tabitha D. Moore, Editor