LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The first-ever Grills Gone Wild barbecue competition took place on Friday and Saturday last week, overcoming soaking rain and frigid winds.
For many competitors, the event — which was sponsored by the London-Laurel Tourism Commission — marked the first real contest of the season. Teams sporting such names as Moonswiners, We Q-4-U, Monty Pigthon and the Holy Grill, and an especially important namesake, The Soggy Bottom Smokers, hailed from states such as Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Tennesee and Kentucky.
On Friday night, teams and the attending public were treated to a catfish and chicken dinner. While they filled their stomachs with fresh catfish, chicken, coleslaw, French fries, and hush puppies, the onlookers were free to watch the Tennesee vs. Michigan and University of Kentucky vs. Louisville NCAA Men’s Basketball games.
In addition, the weekend also featured a small but commendable car show, a wet and cold morning 5K, as well as a corn hole tournament. Many competitors looked to the latter event as a chance to warm up, dry off and enjoy a cup of coffee.
Many teams took to firing up grills and preparing “rubs” or sauces late Friday night to perfect techniques and hone their skills. The majority did not stop until the event was over the following afternoon.
“We’ve been working in shifts all night,” said a member of Pull My Meat from Knoxville, Tenn., while putting on the finishing touches to their rib entry. “We have one guy in the camper now because he was smoking and grilling all night.”
For Jason Hicks of The Gridiron Hogs of Clintwood, Va., rain and inclement weather only ups the stakes of a competition.
“This is our first (competition) of the year,” Hicks said. “The folks of London have really done a great job in setting everything up. Sure, the rain and weather is bad, but you can’t ever help that. It just makes things a little bit more interesting.”