Cold, damp weather kept the crowds slightly smaller at this year’s Jack Daniel World Invitational Barbecue (JDWIB) but it could do little to dampen the competitive spirit of the day. As event-goers buzzed through Wiseman Park, team stayed firmly planted behind the scenes narrowly focused on the task at hand.
And who could blame them, competing for The Jack is serious business.
At least that’s what ZBQ of Rhode Island told us as they took a break from preparing chicken to talk to The News. As a first–time JDWIB competitor and the first ever team to compete for The Jack from Rhode Island, ZBQ said they enjoyed the sense of history they found at the Lynchburg competition. The team left Rhode Island on Oct. 1 and “competed” their way to Lynchburg. As the winner of the 2011 Connecticut State BBQ Championship, ZBQ received an automatic invitation to compete for The Jack.
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.
Later in the day, The News caught up with the folks from Smokin’ on the Roof, a team from Birmingham, Ala. who proudly yelled “Roll Tide” as the crowd passed by their tent.
Though captain Rodney Meeks has been barbecuing since 2007, this is the first year he and partner Donnie Jones branched out on their own.
So far, they says, it’s been a string of firsts.
It’s their first time at the Jack Daniel event. They qualified at the first event they ever cooked as a new team – the first annual Cullman Octoberfest Barbecue Challenge. They were drawn at the Bung Draw in September.
As The News chatted – and watched the South Carolina vs. Tennessee game on a flat screen – their crew anxiously counted the minutes until beef brisket turn in. As the clock showed just two minutes to spare, the team’s runners raced toward the judging pavilion.
In order to qualify for The Jack, teams must compete in all four meat categories: pork ribs, pork butt/shoulder, beef brisket and chicken. If you’re late for a single turn in, you’re disqualified.
By final turn in at 3 p.m., most teams showed fatigue and the crowds got smaller as the temperatures dropped.
“This may be one of the smaller crowds we’ve had but I think it’s one of the best,” said Jack Daniel Master Distiller Jeff Arnett.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: For a complete list of the placing teams, pick up a copy of our November 1 print edition or sign up online for our e-edition.]