Orange County's longest-running and best-attended barbecue contest returns to the Fairgrounds this Saturday June 9, and Sunday June 10. I have participated as either a cook or a judge in every edition since 2007, and I'm proud to see this home-grown event expand each year. Close to 70 teams from all over the West Coast compete in the Kansas City BBQ Society-sanctioned contest, which sets a record for the largest ever organized in California.
This year, the event is a two-day affair. This event was among the first to embrace the People's Choice vote, which allows the public to sample meats from the competitors. These days, most true BBQ contests in Southern California offer the public a chance to vote for their favorite team. Five years ago, sanctioned contests tended to be closed off to the public, and you weren't able to ask teams for food because organizers didn't want to hassle with Health Department requirements to feed the public.
Times change, and barbecue contests are more popular than ever thanks to TV shows like BBQ Pitmasters (which coincidentally started its third season last week). Orange County will host several more contests in 2012 (check Stick a Fork In It for updates)! This one, organized by Kristie's Foundation as their annual fundraiser, is the grand-daddy of OC contests. 100% of proceeds benefit a hospice for terminally-ill children and their families, so it's not just great food and family fun, it's also a worthy cause.
What kind of fun? How about a rib-eating contest for you wannabe-Kobayashis? There's the supremely popular and tongue-in-cheek Mr. BBQ Pageant, which our friend and burrito-model “Big Country” has won for several years running. There's a car show and activities for the kids, including a butterfly release, petting zoo, and face-painting. For you Mark McGrath fans, OC's own Sugar Ray will perform their `90's hits on Saturday night.
Orange County Fairgrounds (Enter from Arlington Drive)
People's Choice sampling hours:
Saturday June 9 10am- 5pm
Sunday June 10 11am – 4pm
Adult 1 day ticket is $15, 2 day tickets are $25.
Child 1 day ticket is $10, 2 day tickets are $20.
Parking at the OC Fairgrounds costs $5 per day.
2 oz. Samples available for 1 token. Tokens cost $2.50 each or 5 for $10.
Word to the wise from a BBQ contest veteran — teams won't be cooking more after they run out – show up early.
More details on the event website, cabbqfestival.com