Smoke on the River
September 6, 2014
William Land Park, Sacramento, CA
The last KCBS contest in northern California this year was held in Sacramento. The Sacramento Artists Council, Inc., which raises money for art and music programs for at-risk children of homeless families, sponsored the first ever event in the lovely William Land Park. Land Park is a major park in Sacramento and houses the Sacramento Zoo, Fairytale Town, Funderland, and a golf course which bordered the edge of the BBQ contest.
Organizer, Susan Rabinovitz found a nice tree lined road for teams to setup their sites on Friday night. With easy parking, tons of shade, plenty of space, nice weather, free beer and no traffic concerns, the contest had more than its share of advantages. Combine that with Susanâs youthful enthusiasm and effort, and you have a great first time contest.
To raise funds for the council, Susan asked each team to cook donated meat for public serving on Saturday. The commitment was limited as she had volunteers take away the PC to be served from a centralized area nearby.
The park is massive and finding the contest site requires you to drive around it for some time until you can either smell or vaguely see the familiar tents. Once inside the park, there are few street lights. But what seemed like a disadvantage actually created an intimate campy feeling to the contest. In the darkness, you recognized your friends by their silhouettes and the sound of their voices. For those of us who live in crowded cities, being there felt like a sigh of relief.
Butch Richardsonâs Arkansas accent carried in the silent night and we all stood around him, wishing him well before he and his wife, Karla, moved to Minnesota. Gifts were bestowed and many memories were shared with the former CBBQA treasurer and good friend. He cooked one last time with Jon Davis of Pork Dynasty.
A few teams from the south migrated up for this one; Daddy Oâs and My Smokin Grillfriend from Bakersfield, Slap Yoâ Daddy from Diamond Bar and backyard team, BARBQS2GO from Thousand Oaks. Several judges from Washington and Oregon drove many hours south to join in on the fun. Another three judges from the Kansas City and the North Carolina area recently moved to California and made up a fun part of the pool.
The contest felt like the last day of school. Most of us wouldnât see each other until spring next year. A few were headed south for Dana Point for the record setting California contest, or east to the Samâs Club finals or the American Royal in Kansas City. Kevin Barteaux of Smokey Luv was headed for both the Royal and the Jack, having been drawn for the Invitational only a couple of days earlier. Multiple teams were headed to some combination of the Samâs, Dana Point, and the Royal.
You could hear teams talk about travel logistics and share advice. Numerous teams and judges talked about the upcoming Feather Falls Casino final in Orville. With Rolling Bones and Traveling BBQ Circus in first place in the Northstate Championship, David Schmidt was cautiously optimistic because as they say in BBQ, âYou never know.â Other teams were more contemplative, thinking about this yearâs performance and what should be in store for them next year.
The turn-ins were an hour earlier than usual so the judges were asked to arrive at 9:30am. A bunch of judges got stuck behind a traffic accident that morning which made the last minute logistics a little tougher inside the tent but our representatives did a great job. Judges were distributed, table captains were assigned and trained, number switchers and left over assistants were explained their duties. Kelly and Kathleen McIntosh didnât skip a beat. With the music stage set a good distance away, the atmosphere was jovial but allowed you to focus on the important task at hand: judging.
There were 26 pro teams and 6 backyard teams (chicken & ribs). All teams were given cute little clear plastic beer mugs with the contest logo stamped in yellow on the outside. With a wristband and the mug, you could walk around beer venders and drink all you wanted. Two hard ciders after the contest were all I could drink!
Awards were held on the music stage and teams carried their collapsible chairs with them for a few hundred yards or just sat on the shady grass. It didnât seem to matter much. The band had some crazy beautiful instruments (drums and bass) which we admired as they played music that was more easy country than rock.
As a first year contest everything was pretty simple and organic in feel. Susan welcomed and thanked the participants. Sheâs got this great short wavy blonde hair, some comfortable jeans and a big tattoo on her right arm. With her welcoming personality, it is impossible not to like her instantly. Her husband who also helped was every bit as nice the entire time. There werenât any logistics about how to load up or when you could leave. You just left when you were done. There wasnât anything to sign or long lines to wait. It was so easy. Small contests are terrific.
The top three finishers in chicken were Pirates of the Pig (1st), Big Bâs Down-N-Dirty BBQ (2nd) and Son of Smoke (3rd). The top three finishers in ribs were Smokey Luv (1st), Son of Smoke (2nd) and My Smokin Grillfriend (3rd). The top three finishers in pork shoulder were Get Some Saltworks BBQ (1st), Too Ashamed to Name (2nd) and Smokey Luv (3rd). The top three finishers in brisket were Get Some Saltworks BBQ (1st), My Smokin Grillfriend (2nd) and Daddy Oâs Smokinâ BBQ (3rd).
The top overall finishers were Marty Jenkins of Get Some Saltworks BBQ in 5th, Zachary Galiste of Son of Smoke in 4th, Yvonne and Bill Souza of Big Bâs Down-N-Dirty in 3rd, Jeff Pollock of My Smokin Grillfriend as Grand Reserve Champion and Kevin, Dustin, and Maria Barteaux of Smokey Luv BBQ as the Grand Champion of Smoke on the River for 2014.
For the backyard division, the top three finishers in chicken were BARBQS2GO (1st), Robâs Smokinâ Rub BBQ Crew (2nd) and Big Boy BBQ (3rd). The top three finishers in ribs were BARBQS2GO (1st), JP B Que (2nd) and Hardball Smokers (3rd). The top three overall finishers in the backyard division were JP B Que in 3rd, Hardball Smokers as Reserve Grand Champion and Paul Murray of BARBQS2GO was the Grand Champion.
Congratulations to all of the participants and volunteer staff that made the contest possible. Special thanks go to Kelly and Kathleen who made the contest very smooth and to the Sacramento Arts Council Inc. who sponsored the event in this beautiful city park and especially to Susan Rabinovitz.
We wish all of our California BBQ teams the best of luck as the year ends with a few more contests to go in the south. We also bid safe travels as our best teams carry their loved ones and their cookers across the nation to compete and represent our state and our style of cooking. Good luck!