Fourth Annual OC Barbecue Festival at the Fairgrounds This Weekend!!

Hollywood cut

Has our weekly Grill Marks series whetted your appetite for real, slow-smoked barbecue? Then go to Orange County's premier BBQ contest next Saturday, June 11 at Costa Mesa's OC Fairgrounds. The best part of the Que'n For Kids contest must be the People's Choice contest, where you can sample the food that the best competitors on the West coast cook.

Just to get the disclaimer out of the way, this writer's competition team, Four Q, has cooked at this contest since its inception, and won the People's Choice championship in 2008. We're going back to take back the title!

Bold words? Sure, but swagger is part of the game for BBQ contest cooks who earn those bragging rights until the next guy takes the top step on the podium. The 2010 Grand Champion, Rib Ticklers BBQ, will return, as will reality-show star Harry Soo of Slap Yo' Daddy BBQ from TLC's BBQ Pitmasters. Other as-seen-on-TV cooks from BBQ Pitmasters 2 are Big Poppa Smokers, Bigmista, yours truly, and my teammate Sylvie. OC's own Chris Rocke and Big Country from the Rancho a Go Go truck will try to repeat their past top placings as well.

The contest is the main fundraiser for Kristie's Foundation, a hospice for terminal ill children. The family-friendly contest has many activities for the kids. Entry costs $10 per person, with free admission for kids under three.

We asked event organizer Kelleigh Strobel how this year's event will be different from last year's.

Stick a Fork In it: Last year's event was huge. What was the attendance figure for 2010?

Kelleigh Strobel: We were literally just shy of 10,000

What will be different or new for 2011?

Lots! A new and improved layout with a picnic area (bring your blankets and lawn chairs) and an expanded BBQ area. More room for teams and the crowd! More BBQ teams producing larger volumes of BBQ throughout the day, more food and beverage vendors, larger car show and kid zone. Beer tasting will feature 25 breweries sampling craft brews to the crowd. We have also worked hard to educate the public on how authentic BBQ is cooked and how that effects is availability to the crowd. 

Not all teams participate in the People's Choice tasting; Teams that do participate, won't always have a variety of items available at all times of the day (i.e., at 11, a team might serve and run out of chicken and move to serving brisket at noon, or a team that served pulled pork sandwiches at noon might have run out of rolls by 3 p.m. Different teams will feature different foods at various intervals of the day.

How many sample tickets does the $10 entry fee buy?

No tastes are included with entry this year. Just $10 entry and five 2.5 ounce tastes for $10 or $2.50 each. Beer tastes are $10 for five 4 ounce pours or $2.50 each.

Besides the sampling of competitor's barbecue, what other foods will be available?

Reser's Fine foods will feature potato salad, Billy Backyard BBQ of Laguna Beach will feature a variety of BBQ items, Farmer John will be sampling sausages and ribs, Ranchers Reserve will be sampling a variety of beef products, some of the featured teams will be sampling ABT' [ed – atomic buffalo turds, or smoked stuffed jalapenos], MOINK Balls [ed – smoked bacon-wrapped meatballs], fruit cobblers, and other creative dishes. Also featured are the traditional fair foods like cotton candy, sno cones, churros, popcorn, hot dogs, and pizza for the vegetarians!

What family activities will be available for children?

The kid zone will feature face painting, bouncers, obstacle courses, arts and crafts, petting zoo, games, and a special visit from the Knights of Medieval Times!

What fun activities will be available for adults?

The car show is bigger this year as is the Mr. BBQ Pageant and the rib eating contest. Don't forget beer tasting in the brewery area and the People's Choice contest where you can vote for your favorite BBQ team!

It's an all-day event, but there are don't-miss things going on all day. What's the best time for people to arrive?

If you buy your tickets in advance, you can get in the gates at 10 a.m.. Tickets can be bought at the door from 11 a.m. on. We are hoping that our efforts to work with select teams and sponsors to have fresh hot food available as early as 10 a.m.and as late as 5 p.m. will pay off to allow everyone to enjoy some great food throughout the entire day.  Peak hours for BBQ tasting will be 12 noon to 3 p.m. The cars will be on display all throughout the day, the crowd favorite, the Mr. BBQ Beauty Pageant will be at 2 p.m. and the rib eating contest will be at 4 p.m.  The kid zone is open all day long! Awards for the BBQ teams will be at 6 p.m.!

See you there!

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