BBQ showdown brings out of state competition

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Thirty teams from all over the Southeast traveled to Town Square Park to smoke meats and attempt to win top honors in the 7th Annual Downtown BBQ Showdown Friday, Aug. 17 and Saturday, Aug. 18.

The Downtown BBQ Showdown is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society and hosted by the Hattiesburg Historic Neighborhood Association. Andrea Saffle, one of the event organizers, spoke highly of partnering with KCBS.

“KCBS makes it a lot more official and not as subjective,” Saffle said. “It’s very systematic; they have certified judges who are looking for certain things and they’re specific with what they’re looking for. It brings better competitors because they know how they’re being judged.”

This year’s grand champion was Robin Yelverton and Wink’s BBQ, based out of Ft. Walton Beach, Florida.

After taking a class from celebrity chef and “BBQ Pitmaster” judge Myron Mixon, Wink and Robin have been competing in BBQ since 2012.

“Our first competition was in April of 2012. We didn’t have high expectations going in, but we won second place chicken and $400. We were hooked after that,” Yelverton said.

Aside from winning best overall, Wink’s BBQ also placed third in Pork Ribs, fourth in Brisket, sixth in Chicken and 13thin Pork.

“We’re not in it for the money, our motivation is fellowship and the friends we’ve made,” Wink said. “We can drive from Miami to Seattle, and if we ever broke down along the way, we wouldn’t be an hour away from a friend we’ve met through BBQ who would come and help us.”

Representing Smoke on This from Knoxville, Tennessee, Jackie Price won first place in Brisket and third place overall during her first trip to Hattiesburg. However, this was not the restaurant’s first KCBS competition.

“We’ve been doing KCBS (competitions) for 12 years,” Price said. “Last year we did 36, the year before we did, 34. I’m not sure how many we’ll do this year, but we cover mostly the Southeast. We covered 14 states last year and traveled over 18,000 miles.”

Price went on to say that she had a good first reputation of Hattiesburg. “Everybody associated with the organization and the city that we’ve been exposed to has done an outstanding job. Everyone feels very welcomed,” Price said.

For the seventh showdown, the organizers decided to not only move away from Walthall Park, but also partner with the City of Hattiesburg for the first time.

Returning local, six-year competitor John Burks of Smokin’ Magnolia BBQ Company said the changes were “nice and fresh.”

“I like this venue. It has a lot of shade, and the city has been a great partner this year. Barbecue is a crapshoot, and you never know what’s going to happen. You have a chance of maybe beating a team that does this every week.”

Saffle said she was pleased with the City of Hattiesburg’s help and the competitors’ feedback.

“All the teams that were here want to come back. It was well done and easy for them. There’s no limit to where we can go. The more people come, the easier it gets to make things like this grow. Partnering is key,” Saffle said.

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