Thursday, January 24, 2008

2007 KCBS Team of the Year Awards

During the annual KCBS banquet held January 18-20th, in Kansas City, the Team of the Year (TOY) Awards were announced. The 2007 winner is Tuffy Stone and Cool Smoke out of Richmond Virginia. Congrats to Tuffy and the gang who have been competing on the circuit since 2004 and have already racked up 10 State Championships. Who are those guys? received mention on 3 lists. 50th overall, 36th in chicken, and 23rd in brisket. Not bad considering there are over 4000 teams around the Country. We understand this will be the last year the list is prepared in this format, as the criteria for making the list will change due to new KCBS regulations. In the future, to be considered for a TOY award, a team must cook in at least 10 contests. With 7 contests on our schedule for 2008, it looks like we are out of the running before the first fire is lit. Oh well, we will enjoy the 2007 list for as long as we can.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Part 13- The off-season, Winter 2007-08

Competitive cooking, is it a sport?

When I look back over our first year of competition, I am still amazed. I read and reread the results from the contests. I look at my notes, and then I reread this blog, it still causes me to shake my head. The guys on the team came together and worked as a unit. Way to go fellows, thanks for your efforts. We cooked in four contests, in which, we walked nine times to the stage, wow, I still can’t believe it.

A great big thank you goes out to my friend and BBQ mentor Steve Farin. You may have read earlier in this blog, when I chronicled how I met Steve and he shared with me his interest and passion for competitive BBQ cooking. Without his friendship, guidance and instruction, our results for this season would not have been possible. Now, having cooked in contests on my own, and experienced the pressure and stress involved, makes me really appreciate the time and patience that Steve showed during those times that I assisted him. I am sure that I asked more than my share of dumb and untimely questions. For that, I say thank you Steve, thanks for everything.

As a sign of our gratitude for Steve, our team has vowed to always have a bottle of his favorite elixir, agave nectar, on hand in our trailer for when he stops by. If you are at a contest, and see our set up, please stop in for a shot. Introduce yourself and trade some stories, we would love to meet you.

I finally found a competitive sport that I like. I tried my hand at golf, never had much interest. Besides, takes too long to play a round these days, what with all of the slow playing woman on the course. (just kidding girls) My vertical leap is not quite good enough for the NBA, close, not off by much, and I got that age thing working against me. Bull riding is out, what with my tender crotchel area and all. (see part 11) World Series of Poker, cost too much just to buy in and I have trouble seeing the cards with sunglasses on, besides, my head is so large, its hard to find a pair of shades that fit. Nope, BBQ looks like a winner. Good friends, cold beer, beef, chicken, pork, ( all the major food groups covered), and sauce, now there is a sport you can really get into. Any sport that one of the first steps is to rub your meat is OK in my book. Vegetarians need not apply.

I know, I know, there are some that will say, competitive cooking, that’s not a sport. I used to get into these arguments with guys at work all the time. These same guys would say NASCAR, that’s just driving in a circle, no sport there. Then they would go home and watch golf, poker, billiards or competitive hot dog eating on ESPN. Correct me if I am wrong, but if competitive eating is shown on the Nations premier sports channel, then it must be a sport. And if the eating is a sport, why can’t the cooking of those hot dogs, or in this case BBQ be a sport. My dog-eared copy of Merriam-Webster’s says, sport- noun- /’sport/ a source of diversion: recreation, physical activity engaged in for pleasure. Nuff said, I think we have those requirements covered here.

It’s probably a good thing too, that BBQ is my sport. You have heard how “they” say he has the frame of a halfback, or, he has the hands of a quarterback, or, he has a body built for wrestling. I never quite heard anything of this sort when I was coming up. I will spare the gory details of the comments that were, and continue to be, hurled my way. One thing for certain, I have a body built for BBQ, there is not much dispute to this statement. A hot greasy smoker, surrounded by friends and family, some good tunes, a couple of stains on my shirt, cold beer in my hand, all shrouded in a sweet smelling blue smoke, that’s what I am talking about! That’s what I call livin. It really don’t get no better than this.

As we fill our days during the off season with family, working, blogging, test cooks and plans for next season we can’t help but stop every once and a while and look back at the season past. We had a lot of fun and met many new and interesting folks that we now call friends. Most of all we experienced first hand how many good and caring people are involved in this sport. From the competitors, contest organizers, judges and reps, almost everyone displays the same, “what can I do to help you?” attitude. Even though they compete against each other on a regular basis, they are always quick to help one another anytime the need arises. When you are at a contest, it’s like a huge family cookout. The only difference is, there is more than the usual amount of drunken Uncles attending. To me, it doesn’t matter if you win or loose, I am just glad to be there, and proud to be a part of the BBQ community.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Part 12 –Diamond State BBQ Championship, Dover DL Oct 19-20, 2007

Dover Blows and they aren’t kidding!

I could not believe it was October already. It seemed like just yesterday we were doing the test cook in my driveway. The summer had flown by, I guess because I was so busy. Oh well, it was time to get ready for what would be our last contest of the season. Bobby was out of town on vacation and would not make the trip to Dover, we would miss him.

The contest would be held in the infield at Dover Downs Racetrack. This is a track that hosts the NASCAR teams twice a year for a race. The BBQ teams set up on the pads where the NASCAR drivers park their campers when they are in town. Each site has its own hookup for water, electric and sewage. A very nice setup.

We had everything in the trailer that we needed and those items pretty much stayed put. I did like to look things over and make sure we had everything before we took off. We kept a list in the trailer during contests, when we found we needed something, we would note it on the list. I would check the list and get the needed items, if possible, before the next event. One exception was after Bel Air, Bobby noted that we needed an RV, I think we will hold off on that purchase for a little while.

Responsibilities at my new job would prevent me from taking the entire day off on Friday. Erich and Mike came by around 9:00 AM and hooked up the trailer to head for Dover Downs. They would meet up with Al out on Route 95 and make the trip together. I would take off as soon as I could. We did not have time to trim the meat beforehand, so the trimming would have to be done on site.

I worked in the office until around 11:30 before I was able to sneak away for the weekend. Around 2:30, when I arrived, the boys had the site set up and everything was in great shape. Mike and I began to prep the meat, we had decided on one extra butt and brisket along with two additional slabs of spares in addition to the amount we had been cooking. The prep work would take a little longer than usual, but we had time.

Mistakenly, I had packed only one boning knife in the case that I carry to each contest. I do not think I will make that mistake again. I had other knifes in the case, but it’s hard to make time trimming with a slicing knife, lest you would like to add a little fillet-O-finga into the mix. Believe me, I have a hard enough time working with the proper sharp knife without requiring a transfusion, as the nicks and scars on my ageing digits will bear witness to. So needless to say, having only one boning knife, and now with additional meat, we were a little behind on our prep work.

Chris, from IQUE, was flying solo this weekend and was next door to us. Believe me when I tell you, doing a contest is a lot of work when you have four others helping, I can’t imagine doing one alone. I had corresponded with Chris several times on various BBQ forums but had never met him in person. After introducing myself, I asked him to join us for dinner.

Steve was also cooking this contest. He was working with Jack McDavid of Jacks Down Home and was set up not far away. I told him to be sure and stop by for some chili and a shot of agave juice, which, in the tradition of my mentor, we now kept on hand in the trailer for just such occasions.

Erich and Al attended the cooks meeting and collected the boxes. We finished with the trim work by early evening and then enjoyed a fine dinner of chili, cornbread and sweet corn on the cob, the last of the summer, prepared by Al. A nice dinner, a couple of beers, a fine cigar, a few laughs, it was starting out to be a very enjoyable night.

The weather around these parts can be very unsettled in the month of October. It can be cool, you might even see a heavy frost in the later days or a possible snow flurry. You may have to switch the air conditioning back on, as some October days can be down right hot. Of course, the transitional days between these differing weather systems can always be a little exciting.

So far this year had been fairly mild, we really had not seen any sign of fall and or winter as of yet. On Friday we were wearing short pants and tee shirts, the nights were cool, but the daytime temps were very enjoyable. On Friday afternoon, the weatherman was calling for a front to move through the Delaware area, with a possibility of severe storms accompanied by strong and gusty winds. We took the normal precautions when setting our site and anchored our canopies down with five gallon buckets filled with water. During the afternoon and evening, I tried to keep things in the storage boxes in case we had to move into the trailer due to rain.

Folks that cooked this contest the year before talked about the wind and how strong it blew on Friday that year. I had seen pictures of some of the damage, it did not look like fun. One competitor even coined the expression, Dover Blows, in reference to the winds, of course. Around 10:00, I spoke to Jo on the phone. She was watching the Weather Channel and said that it looked like we were about to be clobbered. I will never tell her, but I wish for once I had listened to her, please, keep this between us, and do not tell her. I looked up at the sky, no lightning, no thunder, a few stars, just a slight breeze out of the south, nah, we would be all right, lets go visiting.

We were about 200 yards from our site at the first stop on our meet and greet tour. We found the Pequea boys visiting at another site and we stopped in hopes of scoring a few cherries. While we stood talking, a slight breeze came and lifted the canopy we were next to and dropped it on the road. We all grabbed a post and tried to remove the nylon to prevent the thing from sailing off again, the breeze was still increasing. We had more or less stabilized this canopy, when we noticed the wind was still getting stronger.

Hadn’t we better get back to check on our site? As soon as we started walking in that direction, the wind really started to blow. I looked across the infield and could see multiple canopies taking flight, along with dirt, dust, cooler lids, coolers, paper towels, and anything else that was not anchored down, along with a few things that were. I am not sure, but I think I saw Mrs. Gulch and Dorothy sail by, Auntie Em, Auntie Em! We all began to run in hopes of preventing damage to our site. I was a little concerned that someone was going to be hit by the flying debris. For a while, it was down right scary. The wind was ripping through the aluminum bleachers making a tremendous rumbling sound. It sounded like the benches were about to break off and join the aerial bombardment. I hoped they stayed put.

We arrived at our site just in time and were able to remove the nylon coverings from our two larger canopies before they lifted off. The smaller canopy over our cookers was not as lucky and already went for a ride, laying in a twisted pile against the chain link fence to the rear of our site. Other than a brief shower, it never really rained at all. Almost a quick as it had started, the wind began to subside, the damage already done.

I made a quick assessment of our situation, which really was not that bad. Power restored to the Guru, the cooker was working. We set off to see if we could lend a hand to the others around us that did not fair as well. Property damage seemed to be abundant, the EZ-UP folks would be happy, as numerous canopies were headed for the dumpster. Thank God no one was hurt.

I had heard that a few teams packed up after the storm and left, but I do not know for sure. What I do know is the people that were not hit hard went around and helped those that were. Even people that had minimal damage were out helping those with more extensive damage. “What do you need?” was a question that I most heard that evening, as teams helped each other, lending equipment, supplies, cookers, what ever it took. I, for one, was very impressed by the way that folks came together after the storm, it made me very proud to be a part of this community called BBQ.

The wind subsided, the stars came out and by 2:00 AM, it was an enjoyable night. The rest of the team bunked down for the night while I sat up and had a few more beers. From my spot, with the huge lights over the infield, I could see the smoke from all of the cookers wafting by, what a sight. Life is good.

Morning arrived, unfortunately, a free breakfast was not on the schedule. I understood the contest organizers had put out a nice spread for the cooks meeting that I did not attend. Al and Erich must have forgotten to tell us about that, they surely did not return with any carryout bags. We enjoyed a continental breakfast of coffee and Danish, in house, it was not too bad.

Erich, the fill-in runner, timed the walk to the turn in area to be about two minutes. We would have to be careful with the time. The turn ins went very smoothly as the guys worked very well as a team, many times anticipating the next step and moving forward to get things ready. When we would finish with an item for the day, it was washed and put away. A well oiled machine might be a bit over the top to describe our team at this point, but we were definitely getting with the program, the guys had really come together to move as one. I was sad that this would be the last contest of the season.

After the site was pretty much broken down, I thought I would walk over and see how Steve and Jack were doing. While on the way to their site, I found them behind the RV that belonged to Tuffy Stone from Cool Smoke. Tuffy was last years Grand Champion in this event and has scored numerous wins during his time on the BBQ circuit. Steve waved me over and I found myself in a conversation with three BBQ greats. The talk was about how the turn-ins went and about past contests, I didn’t have much to offer to the conversation when I noticed another fellow headed our way. “Who’s buying the ice cream?” asked Johnny Trigg, a legend in the BBQ world, as he joined the group for a little pre awards banter.

Let me set the scene for you, four guys with who knows how many contests and Grand Championships between them and one fat guy with his jaw hanging open, a large cranium, and BBQ sauce on his shirt, standing in a circle discussing their turn-ins. The fat guy, by the way, has not won a single Championship, is cooking in his forth contest and can barely win an argument with his wife. What was I doing here? At least I was not slobbering that I knew of, babbling yes, but I do not think I slobbered. I had nothing to offer that made any sense, when I could get my mouth to work, nothing would come out, an extreme rarity for me, as anyone that knows me would tell you. Steve tried to involve me in the discussion, but to no avail, it was not his fault, I was mortified. I couldn’t string two words together to make a sentence, I even had trouble trying to produce a coherent thought. The only thought in my mind was, how do I get myself out of here? Finally, the pause I had been waiting for, I spun on my heel and hobbled away, tail between my legs, a broken man. I did not hear it, but I am sure someone had to say as I walked away, “what’s up with that guy?” At least that’s what I would have said. For once in a very long time, I didn’t have anything to say, a rarity, that’s for sure. Somebody notify the press and call me a doctor.

I stumbled back to our site only to find everyone had left to go to the awards, good, that would give me a chance to gather my thoughts and make up a story about where I had been. Surely I could not be honest and tell the whole story about how the cat had gotten my tongue, could I? Speechless, that’s not me.

I located the gang at the awards and it was not long before the fun began. Eighty-three teams were present and they would be calling from tenth place up. Chicken, ribs, and pork came without a mention of our name. I knew it would happen, it was bound to, I just wished that it wouldn’t. A contest without a call, no big deal, look around at who was here, some pretty stiff competition.

Brisket category, tenth through second, no call. First place goes to…….a pause…..”who are those guys?”…. Wow, a first place in brisket, can you believe that one, I know I couldn’t. I had barely settled back into my seat when they started on the overall winners. Seventh place would be ours. I tried to get the others up, but they wouldn’t budge, I was happy to walk again and had completely forgotten about my earlier brush with awkwardness at the BBQ roundtable.

We had worked to improve our pork and must have done something right, as we took 11th place pork, just one position from getting a call. Chicken was 48th and ribs finished 31st, a solid showing overall in a large, deep and talented field.

Dover was our forth and final contest of the season, we would all agree, we had a heck of a run during our rookie year. We learned a lot and met many very nice people, all the while having a good time ourselves. We still have a lot to learn and many mistakes yet to make, some I am sure we will make over and over again. However, as long as you have good friends, cold beer, a little grub, and a warm fire, who could ask for anything more?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Part 10- August 10-11 2007

The Bel Air BBQ Bash
Cooking a contest and having 125 people in for dinner the night before

The Bel Air Bash is where it all began back in 2004 when we cooked the tailgater challenge. We had never competed on the professional side and looked forward to doing so this year. As I said before, this was our hometown contest, so that made it a little more special. I have a habit of running off at the mouth on occasions, as many who know me will attest to, and this time it was no different. It seemed everywhere I went, when the topic of the Bel Air cook off came up, I would say, be sure to stop in and see us Friday night. The only problem this created was that many folks were looking forward to stopping in. Oh well, what is the big deal, having a few friends drop by on Friday for a beer or a bite to eat, how much trouble could it be? I could not help thinking about the immortal words of George Costanza, “not that there’s anything wrong with that”.

While contemplating what we were going to prepare for Friday evening I started to try and get a rough count of how many folks MIGHT be stopping by. This task became too intimidating and I just gave up, it looked to be a lot. I had better be sure and trim up all of the contest meat at home on Thursday, as Friday night could get a little hectic. You are allowed to trim your meat ahead of time, you just can not apply any seasonings or sauces until after the meat is inspected. I decided to do a couple of pork butts ahead of time and then pull them for BBQ sandwiches on Friday. Sweet corn was running good and we could do a few dozen ears. Along with a couple of store bought sides and we were in business. We could always lay in a couple more cases of beer. No big deal.

When Mike stopped over on Thursday evening to help with the trimming he was asking how many people would be at our site. I thought at this time it was best to dummy up and do another pork butt just in case. I think by the time that he left, he had a good idea that there might more than a few stopping by to visit on Friday evening, but he didn’t get that from me!

Friday morning around 9:00 Mike and I loaded up and took off for the 15 minute drive to the town of Bel Air. I figured we would be arriving early and would have no trouble getting into our spot. When we arrived at the contest site, the place was just about full. Most everyone was already in place and it seemed we were almost late. It was a good thing that Mike was there to back in the trailer. It was a very tight fit and would have taken me two weeks to get it into position. How about that, we lived the closest and were the last to arrive, go figure. My son Sam and his girlfriend Megan helped us set up the site. After everything was set, Mike and I returned home to get a shower as it was very humid which is typical for August in Maryland.

On my way back to Bel Air I stopped for some more beer and last minute items including the garnish we would need for the turn-in boxes. As the afternoon wore on the guys on the team dribbled in one by one. Al stopped on the way and picked up the banner which we unveiled as soon as he arrived, we all thought that it looked great. As the afternoon progressed, we prepped the meat for cooking and retuned it to the cooler while also readying things for our visitors.

It was not long before people started to stop by. I have to say, the evening went very smoothly with the help of the team members. Everyone chipped in which made it easy for everyone as no one person was over worked. At some point late in the afternoon, I heard a strange voice while I was trimming the beef ribs, “hey you bum!” I looked up to see my friend Steve Farin. Earlier in the week, I had spoken to Steve, as he did not enter the contest this year and he said he did not think he would make it down from his home near Boston. He decided at the last minute to come and cook with his friend Jack McDavid of Jacks Down Home BBQ. It was great seeing Steve and he said he would stop by later for a nightcap.

Later in the night, after the big meats went on, we finally had a minute to sit around and relax. We tried to estimate the number of people that had stopped in and the number just keep growing, let us just say that it was “a lot”. We sat at the table, had some laughs, then walked around to the sites visiting with the other teams. We stopped in and saw the Dizzy Pig gang. Chris let us have a seat in his Dads rocking chair to take in some good vibes, we will take all the good vibes that we can get.

Our neighbors Jim and Mark of Pequea Pullers offered us some of their legendary soaked cherries, they could be considered habit forming, (the cherries that is). We had just met these two that morning and found them to be super friendly. Having just met them at 9:30 AM, by evening, it was as if we had known them for years, a very frequent occurrence on the BBQ trail we would discover. One thing about these two guys, every time I looked over at them, they were either sitting in their chairs watching the world go by, or the chairs were empty and they would be out visiting, with there ever-present jar of cherries. They really have this game figured out. Compared to them, we appear to be rushed and always behind, with not much time to sit and watch, but we were getting better.

We also stopped and spoke with Bill from Just Smoken Around. They had been at the Landover contest and won the Grand Championship, but we never got to meet them in person. We stopped in, introduced ourselves and spent some time talking Que with Bill and the boys. Another real nice bunch.

It was not long before the ole eyes were getting heavy and it was time to bed down for the night. Al and Erich set up their cots and Bobby opted to attempt to sleep on a lounge chair. We had a weak cool front come through just around sundown and the air was cool for August, Bobby did not bring along any blankets and I do not think he will make that mistake again. I had an extra in the Hotel Tahoe that I let him use, but I think he was a little chilly all night long. I had set up my cot in the trailer near the cooker and tried to get some sleep. A great mystery still exists to this day as to where Mike bunked down for the night. He will swear that he slept in his truck over in the event parking lot, but rumor has it that he slid home and racked out in his bed. Who could blame him, it was not necessary for everyone to have a lousy nights sleep, was it? Mikes story is he slept in his truck and hes sticking to it.

One thing I noticed at this contest was the proliferation of the BBQ Guru. There were a lot more teams (50) at this event than at the first one we did at Landover (16). It seemed like everyone has a Guru. While lying in the trailer attempting to get some sleep, I must have gotten up five times during the night because I heard a Guru alarm going off. When I looked at our cooker, I would find that it was always someone else’s alarm and not ours. Our Tall Boy was just chugging along.

I jokingly complained to Shotgun Fred, the maker of the Guru, the next day, too many teams were using his product and all of the alarm noise was confusing. I made a suggestion; you know all of the annoying ring tones that they have included on cell phones, why not include different ring tones on the Gurus. That way, each team would select a different tone to be able to tell them apart. Somehow, I do not think he is moving on it. I can see it now, just what we need, our alarm singing “Strangers in the Night” or better yet “Smoke gets in your Eyes” in the middle of an all night cook, hmmmmm maybe in a couple of years he will get back to me about my suggestion, but then again, maybe not. I do not think I will be holding my breath even though I think it is a good idea.

Around daybeak, I got up to get the ribs on. Bobby was also up and made a note to his self to purchase a cot and sleeping bag before the next event. The lounge chair and borrowed blanket did not make the grade as far as he was concerned. The rest of the morning was uneventful until Mike drifted in and the inquisition began. We had many laughs and even involved Mike’s wife Linda when she arrived later in the morning.

We were cooking the add on category of beef ribs at this contest. A local supplier, Deer Creek Beef, donated the racks to the teams that wanted to enter this category. They would be an additional item and not count towards the regular KCBS contest. I had planned to cook the beef ribs and weeks before had bought several racks to cook at home in an attempt to make something eatable out of them. I find beef ribs to be a little too fatty and not very meaty for my liking. Nevertheless, I had a plan for how to prepare them and that was what we would do.

Chicken was first, as usual, and things ran along smoothly until it came time for the ribs to be cut. Wouldn’t you know it, I cut the first rack wrong AGAIN. You would think I would learn, but noooooo, at least this time I caught it before I screwed up the whole bunch. After ribs, the pork again was a little over cooked for me, but we did the best with what we had. The brisket seemed OK and the beef ribs also came out good, a little better than I had thought they would. The hardest thing was getting six of those dinosaur bones into a turn-in box. It took a little creativity, but we got them in and they didn’t look too bad.

We broke down the site with the help of our guests and wondered down to the stage for the awards. Bobby had to hit the road early due to a previous commitment and asked that we call him if we had any good news. There were 50 teams here and the organizers decided to call from eighth place up. They called the beef ribs category first and we heard our name called for third place. I walked up to receive the trophy from the Harford County Executive David Craig. Unfortunately, for us, it was the last time that I would shake hands with Mr. Craig on that August afternoon, as we did not get any more calls to the stage. We were very happy with our beef ribs call as the field here included many top-flight teams from around the country.

The day got a little brighter after we received the complete scoring breakdown. We had finished 20th place overall out of 50 teams, 25th place chicken, 35th place ribs, 18th place pork, and best of all 10th place brisket. Our overall score was a very solid showing considering the size and depth of the field that was present. We had also received some good news five days before the Bel Air Bash, a team had dropped out of New Holland and we would get the spot. The contest was in two weeks. I guess that was good news; there would be 72 teams at New Holland, which included many of the big names that were here at Bel Air and then some. Oh well, go big or go home, isn’t that what “they” say……. Do me a favor, if you ever find out who “they” are, let me know, I have a few things I would like to go over with them.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Part 9- Summer 2007

The Banner
Where in the hell is Street Maryland?

For the geographically challenged, Street Maryland is about 10 miles north of Bel Air, about five miles from the Pennsylvania line. A check with Wikipedia tells us:

Street, Maryland, 21154 is a rural unincorporated area in Northern Harford County, Maryland. The latitude of Street is 39.668N. The longitude is -76.379W. It is in the Eastern Standard time zone. Elevation is 525 feet. Street was first settled by Dutch immigrants in the early 1700s. The community was named for Thomas Street, a landowner. One of the central villages in Street is Highland. The village had a station stop on the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad which served the farms within the area until it ceased passenger service in 1954 and ceased freight service in 1958. The post office for Street, Maryland is located in the village of Highland. The village was once home to Highland High School which later became Highland Elementary School. Highland Elementary School was shut down when the North Harford Elementary School was opened. The large building has other community purposes now, including the alternative Highlands School, Mason-Dixon Community Service, Highland Senior Center and the Street post office.,_Maryland.,+MD,+United+States+of+America&ie=UTF8&ll=39.67707,-76.381073&spn=0.242044,0.462799&z=11&iwloc=addr&om=1

So now, you know.

Our next contest was scheduled for the first part of August in Bel Air, very close to home. It would be almost 2 ½ months, that seems like a long time off, but it looked to be a very busy time. I do a little backyard catering for friends and family members. I had four weekends already committed in addition to a scheduled graduation party at my house for my youngest son Sam in late June. It would not be a very relaxing time.

The newly collected hardware from the Landover contest became a permanent fixture in the BBQ trailer. Several members of the team help me out with the catering gigs and we were always sure to display the two new trophies when we set up our cooking site. We had a lot of fun telling the story about our first contest to anyone that would listen. We would put out a good spread that might include anything from pit meats to pulled pork and anything in between. The folks really seemed to enjoy our food and listening to our tales of BBQ conquests, or should I say BBQ conquest (singular). Even though we were brand new team, we still had a lot of fun with it.

When you schedule four catering events, a graduation party and a week long family vacation, a 2 ½-month layoff goes by in a hurry. I was working on getting a team banner made. A friend of ours, Roger Parrish is a good artist and had expressed a willingness to help us with the creation of the banner. He said that he would do the preliminary drawing based on what I wanted. Roger and I met for lunch and I went over the different ideas that I had. He made some suggestions and said he would get right on it.

It was not long before Roger called and said he would drop off two sketches that he had done for the team banner. I looked them over and liked them both. (thanks Roger!) After some consultation with the family, I decided on one and dropped it off at the sign shop. I had given the sign folks a few additions to the sketch and of course, they also had had a few ideas, it was a real group effort. I just hoped that it would be ready for Bel Air.

The one thing I wanted on the banner was a reference to my home area of Street Maryland. Since I moved here in 1991, I think I had heard just about every reaction to the name of our zip code imaginable. The most often heard was, “where is Street Maryland?” I had even heard it from other people that lived in Harford County. I will agree that it is an unusual name, coupled with the fact that there is no real town named Street. It is the name of an area, and a large area at that. With no city or town that can be referenced, it almost begs to question, “where IS Street?”

In honor of the relatively unknown name of our post office up here in Northern Harford county, I asked the sign shop to have the running chicken asking the obvious question that a lot of folks might have, “where in the hell is Street Maryland?” The banner is a real hit when we travel to contests. I have seen many folks taking pictures and pointing at the characters displayed. It also serves as a real ice breaker as many people will come forward and say “I know where Street Maryland is” or they might ask the inevitable question, “where IS Street Maryland?” Either way, it is a great conversation starter and a great way to meet people!