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Barbecue festival draws 31 teams
Judging barbecued foods is serious business, according to Ruth Knote, judging coordinator of the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce BBQ Fest held Saturday in Arena Park.
Knote should know. She has been involved in barbecue judging for 16 years.
"My husband and I wrote a cookbook," Knote said. "We got into it by accident, by love of cooking."
The Charles E. Knote Memorial Award for Grand Champion was awarded to Mid-America Power Smokers this year. The prize carries the name of Ruth Knote's late husband.
The outdoor contest drew 31 teams this August, which is the most yet, according to event chairman Fred Higdon. The grand champion receives a trophy and $250 grand prize. First-, second- and third-place winners in each category receive cash prizes of $100, $75 and $50, respectively. First-place winners also receive a trophy.
Recipe by trial and error
This was the ninth year of participation for Davis Farms Hunting Club. Members of the core team include Drew, Marty and Tyler Davis, "Wild Bill" Agne and Kim Matlock, while a large number of taste testers serve as group supporters. Sue Agne arranges the presentation of the meat trays.
"I saw the contest that first year and thought we should get involved because we think we are some of the best barbecuers around," Drew said, joking.
Winning first place in pork steaks this year, Davis Farms is a former grand champion and six-time first-place winner in the beef kebab category.
"We have developed our recipe by trial and error," Marty said. "Now, we have a good basic recipe that we stick with, but we still put in some slight modifications each year."
The Thorngate BBQ team has also been participating in the BBQ Fest for nine years. Team members include Luke Landgraf, Sam Ruggiero, Mike Swain, Scott LeGrand and Darryl Maschmann.
"For me, it's just being a part of the community," Landgraf said. "It's a chamber event and fun interacting with the other cooks.
"We all call ourselves backyard barbecuers, so we just banded together."
While it's a lot of fun, the festival is a lot of work too, according to Landgraf. Setup begins Friday, and contestants put in an eight-hour day on Saturday.
Easy to find judges
Because it is a chamber event, board members are invited to be judges. The team of 36 judges this year was made up mostly of chamber members. Included in that number, though, were four guest judges of the Kansas City BBQ Society, certified through schooling.
"It is not at all difficult to find judges," Higdon said. "We usually have a waiting list."
As the judging coordinator this year, Knote did not participate in the judging, but she does judge at other events. The Knotes were instrumental in setting up the rules and entire local program, according to Higdon.
"When we became involved in judging, it really started a whole new career for both of us," Knote said of herself and her late husband.
When judging, Knote said it is important to clear the palate between samples, usually with water or a cracker.
"You have to learn to pace yourself," she said. "In some cases, you may eat as much as five pounds of meat, and that's a lot of meat."
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