| 1st Annual California Honey Harvest Festival
June 15, 2013
By Donna Fong
The city of Fillmore which rests in the Santa Clara River Valley of Northern Ventura County is definitely one of the smallest California towns to host a KCBS contest. The total area of Fillmore is a mere 3.4 square miles. So when Hall of Famer, Bill Keyes, who is a town resident, says his house is just about a mile away from the contest, he is being honest. It couldnât be much further even if he wanted it to be.
Fillmoreâs motto is The Last, Best Small Town. And indeed it is. Fillmore lies south of the San Cayetano Mountain peak (known locally as the Topa Topa Mountains) in the Los Padres National Forest. If you live in LA, you are likely to drive north on highway 5 and make a turn west on highway 126 at Magic Mountain, though the historic Ventura County agricultural and tree-farming belt. All along the highway are nurseries selling avocado trees, lemon trees, palm trees, Christmas trees, orange trees, lavender bushes, and berries. The honey bees are an important factor in maintaining the balance and production of the local agriculture. So a festival to celebrate this often feared friend seemed only sensible.
The festival was located in shady Central Park and between City Hall and a historic fire station converted into a model train museum/Railroad Visitor Center. On Saturday, visitors could ride the Fillmore and Western Railway to Bennettâs Honey Farm, 3 miles away. The judging area was located in an old town bank. Across from the judging area were the teams who volunteered to serve BBQ to the public. Proceeds from sales benefited Autism Speaks which is the world's leading autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism. Beyond the PC teams were festival rides, vendors selling jewelry, soaps made from Bennettâs Honey and educational speakers on beekeeping with live bees to demo. Local restaurants and neighbor grocery stores were all within a few blocks and made for an easy Friday night family dinner or quick Saturday breakfast. The contest actually felt a lot like Vista but with grass and trains.
Organizer and former mayor, Roger Campbell had been showing up at KCBS/CBBQA BBQ contests in southern California all year long. Since it was his first contest, he had a lot to learn but luckily with Kelly and Kathleen McIntosh at his side and the advice from other promoters, he was up to task of putting on his first show. Dressed in a blue and white Hawaiian hibiscus shirt, Roger could be heard riding up and down the contest site in his perfectly matching moped. It was hard to tell if you could hear Roger humming by before you saw him. But either way, you noticed him when he passed by with a big smile and his âWhat can I do for you attitude?â Cute motor vehicles run the in family as his sister, Carol and her husband Pat, showed up on Friday afternoon in a small two person purple 1954 Hudson metropolitan complete with custom eyelashes trimming the headlights.
With six teams from up north and four teams from Bakersfield, the field was flooded with some really tough competition. If Hog Island and Smokin Yankees had entered, the top 18 teams in the state were all there. In a field as small as 36 teams, it could easily be considered the smallest, hardest contest in California.
The non-PC competition teams were staged in the back near the Tourism Bureau and fit snuggly next to one another like a jigsaw puzzle. The weather was mild and cool in the morning and sunny in the afternoon. There were no environmental factors to consider. No wind. No rain. No fog. No wild animals. No snakes. No drunken party goers. It was great for the serious competitor. The only noise that could be heard was a "hoo-h'HOO--hoo-hooâ call from an owl hiding in the trees above us. David Hornby arrived early and checked for fire extinguishers and inspected competition meats. Ventura health inspectors escorted by Roger, checked PC team sites.
Matt Dalton showed up in a new hat and a newly wrapped trailer that was as beautiful as it was big. It had been put only the day before. I joked with Matt about not driving too fast on the freeway or else it would peel off. He smiled and admitted the curing time was a few weeks. Matt walked into the cooks meeting with a bandaged right pinky wrapped in blue tape. He said he had cut it nearly to the bone but didnât bother to go to the hospital. He had too many things to do. Pitmasters are as tough as nails around here. Kim Moore was sitting in the back with a really cute miniaturized red cup that Steve Madule was showing to teams on Friday. He joked about drinking less at these events and using these cups to help him get there. Roger provided a goody bag of local oranges, lemons, honey and a Honey Harvest Festival apron to all teams, which was a very nice gesture.
Teams visited local restaurants or made homemade meals for Friday night dinner. Word spread about the best pizza or chili verde in town. Well fed, we set our minds to spending the rest of the night cooking the best BBQ around. On Saturday, Dave Malone hosted the traditional 9:11am toast and wished everyone good luck and may the best team win. The band showed up and performed on the bed of a large truck parked on the dirt lot between the two plots of grass. Several three compartment hot water sinks were spread throughout the contest site, making clean up easier than normal. When one bin became full, Roger was sure to have it up and running again within an hour.
After turn-ins, teams relaxed a bit and chatted about their cook. What went wrong and what went right are typical topics. It is amazing how a person can cook the four meats, time and time again and experience one variation after another. Even in near perfect conditions, it is very difficult to cook all four meats perfectly. If lack of experience doesnât limit you, exhaustion, poor communication or meat variation can be serious challenges. The most consistent teams do well time and time again. They adjust well to adversity and think outside of the box.
The awards ceremony was held in front of the much photographed Fillmore City Hall. White plastic chairs with scalloped rails were provided for the teams to rest. The chairs in the shade filled up first. The chairs in the sun were pulled into the shade. It was better to sit a little farther back in the shade than closer up in the sun.
Roger Campbell and city council member, Steve Conaway, presented teams with their awards. Places 6th through 10th received a medal neck ribbon while places 1st through 5th received an oval resin composite plaque depicting an offset smoker and the Honey festival logo with a rod stand. GC and RGC trophies had a small plaque, a honey bee, a golden eagle and then an offset smoker on the very top.
Fifth in chicken went to Jerry Aguilar of Burnin and Lootin. Fourth went to Ray Porter and Lamar Ware of Whoâs Smokin Now. Third went to Scott and Pam Hares of Too Ashamed to Name. Second place went to Patrick Sawyer of Daddy Oâs Smokin BBQ from Bakersfield. First place went to Jason Miranda of ZZYZX Bar.B.Q.
Fifth in ribs went to local team, Dan Daniels and Bill Keyes of Tropical Heat. Fourth went to Steve Madule of All Hogs Go to Heaven. Third went to Kevin Barteaux of Smokey Luv BBQ. Second went to Matt Dalton of Left Coast Q. First went to Benny Adauto of Funtime BBQ.
Fifth in pork shoulder went to Steve Aguilar of Vicious Smoke. Fourth went to Sylvie Curry of Lady of Q. Third went to Donna Fong of Butcherâs Daughter. Second went to Sterling Ball of Big Poppa Smokers. First went to Smokey Luv.
For beef brisket, fifth went to Funtime. Fourth went to Butcherâs Daughter. Third went to Mike Lindley of Smokinâ Moâs. Second went to ZZYZX Bar.B.Q. First went to Mike Seifert of 2nd to Last BBQ who was not 2nd to last but first indeed!
The top ten teams for the contest read much like the list that youâll find on the front of the CBBQA website. Overall placing for 10th was Sylvie Curry of Lady of Q. 9th was Dave Malone of All Sauced Up. 8th was Bill and Yvonne Souza of Big Bâs Down-N-Dirty. 7th was Donna Fong of Butcherâs Daughter BBQ. 6th was Kevin Barteaux of Smokey Luv BBQ. 5th was Benny Aduato of Funtime BBQ. 4th was Jerry Aguilar of Burnin and Lootin. 3rd was Jason Miranda of ZZYZX Bar.B.Q. Reserve Grand Champion was Ray Porter and Lamar Ware of Whoâs Smokin Now from Banning. Ray and Lamar had a 4th in chicken, 10th in ribs, 8th in pork and 11th in brisket. This was Whoâs Smokin Nowâs second GC for the year. And Grand Champion was Matt Dalton of Left Coast Q, also from Banning. Matt and his team earned an 8th in chicken, 2nd in ribs, 14th in pork and 8th in brisket. With his fourth GC this year, Mattâs team is operating like a well-oiled GC winning machine.
For People Choice, first place went to John Harvey of Bar J H Bar-B-Q from neighboring Moorpark. John also won the best BBQ sauce contest on Sunday. There was also a special Queen Bee-BQ plaque & tiara given to yours truly for her enthusiastic support of the contest by dressing up in very uncomfortable bee inspired high heels. A big thanks to Roger Campbell for organizing the contest and making the teams feel so welcomed to his hometown. Thank you to Kelly and Kathleen McIntosh and David Hornby who gave structure to the judging of the contest and made the best of tight quarters. And thank you to the volunteers, judges, council members, Bennettâs Honey Farm and the town of Fillmore for hosting this event.