by Dana ‘Big Papa’ Hillis
Every guy or gal that gets into competition BBQ will jump at a chance to cook for just about any cause – a church gathering, a fund raiser for the high school or a party of any kind – just because of a passion to cook BBQ.
The Big Papa team will cook at about any opportunity we get, and, boy, have we had some opportunities lately!
We won some qualifiers last year that got us an invitation to the Kansas City Royal – a great big contest that has been going on for about 35 years.
It features an invitational that draws around 150 teams and an open contest that draws over 500 teams on the second day. We also qualified for a couple of draws for the State of Florida to go to the Jack Daniels Invitational in Lynchburg, Tennessee – home of the Jack Daniels distillery. You have to be lucky to do well in BBQ, and we were lucky enough to get the draw for the Jack.
We also entered the Sam’s Club National Championship with the Wolfe Brothers BBQ team, which had a qualifying tournament in Orlando, Fla. Only the top 6 teams qualified to move on to the next round in Jackson, Tennessee. We did well enough to qualify 5th overall, so now the schedule is full.
First, we packed up to go to Kansas City. Originally four teams were riding together in a motor home to save on some fuel and enjoy some story-telling time along the way. The motor home developed some mechanical difficulties before we left, which was a good thing, because I don’t think we would have made the mountains of Tennessee with the load we had!
Thomas Sadaka with Divine Swine BBQ pulled his trailer, Damon and Pops Wooley pulled the Wooley Bully BBQ Mafia trailer, and we loaded the Hot Wachula team along with the Big Papa rig and were off to Kansas City.
We arrived safely, and Thomas, Damon and Big Papa’s were set up real close to each other, but Hot Wachulas was as far away as you could be.
We were in a real good location, but Matt was deep on the “Dark Side.” This is where you walk under a bridge from the normal side of activities to the “Dark Side” – the biggest party in BBQ.
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Beer-Wednesday Pretzel Logs
Here is a cool recipe from Naked Bones:
• 1 bag large pretzel rods
• 1 pound sliced bacon
• 1 package grated Parmesan cheese
Roll bacon around pretzels,
Put on grill offset from flames (I cook in a Fast Eddy at 350 degrees),
Cook until bacon is done,
Pull off hot and roll in cheese.
Eat while still warm.
They are good!
Additional tips for Bacon-Wrapper Pretzels:
Use the long pretzel sticks (that look like cigars)
Wrap the bacon like a candy cane.
Watch them carefully, because they burn quickly!
(story continued from above)
There were over 450 permits pulled in Kansas City just for bands at the Royal, and I think most of them were right next to Matt’s Hot Wachula site. When the music was not playing, the trains were shaking Matt out of his camp.
Every BBQ team has to cook the Royal at least once to enjoy this experience. We got to meet a lot of teams from around the country, including the Gerritt Boys BBQ team out of South Dakota.
My goodness they have a sense of humor in South Dakota! We laughed a lot and had a good time. We cooked some gator tail we brought with us, and the South Dakota boys enjoyed it. They don’t get much gator between snow storms.
We got a 4th place call in brisket in the invitational, along with an 11th in chicken. The next day we got a 13th-place call out of 500 entries in chicken and took 3rd in the sausage contest (303 entries). There were over 300 teams in the side dish competition, where Janet finished 32nd, including top finishes in baked beans and onion casserole!
We left Kansas City and headed to Jackson, Tenn. for the semi-final round of the Sam’s Club Championship. Only the top 11 teams qualify for the championship round in Bentonville, Arkansas, which has a purse of $100,000 and the Grand Champion takes home $35,000!
We were a little nervous, wanting to do well against some of the best teams in the country. We did not get a call in chicken or ribs, so we were pretty sure we were out of the running, but then came the good luck.
We tied for 1st in pork with Uncle Kenny’s BBQ and took 9th in brisket, giving us a 6th place finish overall! Now we were off to Bentonville with the top 50 teams in the whole country! We stayed in Memphis the first night, toured Beale Street, and had a cold one and some appetizers at BB Kings. They had some smoked sausage that was out of this world.
From there we hit a few legendary BBQ joints and had a real good time hanging out with Chris and Mark from C. Elliotts BBQ out of Fort Lauderdale. From Memphis we headed to the home of the Arkansas Razorbacks and Cleveland running back Peyton Hillis – Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Uncle Kenny’s moved on to this round, and so did Kregg, Tom and Charles with Naked Bones BBQ out of Lakeland, Florida.
We toured the small towns around Bentonville and really enjoyed the food at a chicken joint called AQ’s that has been around since 1947. We also ate at Butt Nekkid BBQ, a brand-new place in Fayetteville that has more big cookers sitting outside their place than I have ever seen. The food was OK, they just need to pay a visit to Bubba Chucks in Winter Haven or Pit Masters in DeLeon Springs, Florida to find out exactly what good BBQ is.
As I write this, it is Friday night and we are sitting in the parking lot of Sam’s Club world headquarters, waiting to start cooking. We are cooking a Tri-Tip for an extra category and are finishing up a practice run. There is a competition in Fort Smith, Arkansas that does not start until Saturday night, so, as soon as we finish the Sam’s contest, we are heading south 83 miles to squeeze in one more cook before the Jack. Big Papa’s will cook any time we get a chance!
Make plans to attend the Southern Pines Blues & BBQ Festival and Triple Crown Championship Dec. 9-10 in Perry, Florida, which will once again host the best amateur and professional BBQ teams in the Southeast at Forest Capital Park in Perry, Florida.
Keep on cookin’ and bring our kids home safe.