Sanctioned national barbecue competition a savory hit at Woodstock's new fall festival
By Preston Knight -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- The major thing Brian Shank could take away from his first foray into competitive cooking was something he already knew -- people like their barbecue.
The Woodstock Chamber of Commerce's first annual Autumnfest at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds was a big success, largely because of the Shenandoah Valley BBQ Competition. Thirty participants either entered barbecue into a sanctioned national competition or offered samples and attempted to be the people's champion.
Shank, of Edinburg, was a part of the people's challenge. He prepared four pork shoulders, two spare rib racks, a 30-pound beef brisket, 20 pounds of chicken quarters and 10 pounds of chicken breasts. It was gone in less than an hour, once sampling began at 2 p.m.
"I think it shocked the organizers," said Shank, who operated as Kickin' Ash BBQ.
Chamber executive director Jenna French said she was pleasantly surprised at how much interest the event generated, with more than 1,000 tickets sold before Saturday and within the first 90 minutes of gates opening. There were people from as far away as Miami, she said, and the waiting list to submit barbecue could have doubled the festival's size. Being too popular is a good problem, French said.
"The locals especially [are excited]. They're really proud that Woodstock finally had a signature event like this in the fall," she said.
In addition to barbecue, there was bluegrass music, beer, wine tasting and more. The event may expand to more than one day in the future. Festivalgoers say bring it on.
"Pork and wine," said Devin Roberts, of Charlottesville. "Nothing better than that, right?"
The barbecue competition was sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society.
Competitors accumulate points during the year at events such as Autumnfest to receive national recognition. Keith and Cindy Bailey, of Porkers in Paradise of Abingdon, Md., have competed for six years, and Woodstock was their 10th stop this year.
"If you're not having fun," Keith Bailey said, "get out."
That's an easy assessment of the barbecue circuit for him. Good eats and people are all there is to it, and a mixture of both is the recipe for a good time, Bailey said.
"You don't make money in competition barbecue," he said.
So it's friends and memories instead that are taken away. Woodstock, the Baileys said, is onto something with its Autumnfest because of its atmosphere.
Roberts said she searched online for something to do with her mother, Cathy Burdsall, of Cincinnati, and found the Woodstock event. Even though they made an entire day of it, the rush for barbecue samples limited their exposure to just six tastings. They thought what Front Royal resident Ruby Cahill thought.
"They need to have more barbecue," she said, after getting a taste of two samples.
With so many hungry, or at least inquisitive, mouths to feed, that will be addressed heading into next year, French said. And the benefit to returning festivalgoers?
Barbecuemen such as Edinburg's Shank are going to strive to do even better.
"I'm going to go home and tweak the sauce a little bit," he said. "There's always ways of improving it."