Blazing Belmont BBQ Weekend
By Joanie Buettgen
When Minnesotans discuss Canterbury Park, in Shakopee, Minnesota horse betting is at the top of the list. The high rollers bet big bucks and it’s anyone’s guess who really comes out ahead.
Last weekend, the ponies weren’t the only ones being showcased at this race park. Great barbeque took center stage for the Blazing Belmont BBQ Weekend event. I knew I had to I travel far to taste my first Kansas City BBQ Society event of the summer. And boy, am I glad I took the 50 minute commute. As I jumped out of my chick truck, the air was filled with smelly smoke. And my foodie frenzy kicked into hyper-drive.
The best part of this fun-filled weekend was meeting and greeting local judges and cooks from the Midwest. As I ventured down the parking lot isles the cooks stood around each other and talked “Q”.
As I rounded the corner I came across our local Watertown team of Gary and Joyce Harding, Jeff Larson, and Lynn and Peter Arthur Haering.
As I toured the parking lot, many cooks had parked their campers and trucks earlier in the day. I noticed stacks of charcoal bags, pickup trucks with loads of cut wood, and a variety of long-handled cooking utensils that they had spread out on their make-shift tables. Last week the temperature soared to a scorching 105 degrees. The contestants for this event checked their temperature gauges to make sure they registered a slow and low 225 degrees.
On Friday night it had finally cooled down to a balmy 75 degrees. And it made for a perfect night in Minnesota. Our dreaded mosquito’s had yet to arrive.
Then I noticed a short grey-haired guy. His name was Perry Vining-Event Coordinator for Blazing Belmont and BBQ Weekend. I noticed Vining was riding in and around the race track in a golf cart. As he jumped out of the cart, I thought he looked like a short version of a ZZ Top band member. Vining sported a well-worn hat that was covered with many bling metals. At these barbeque events, the promoters and representatives schedule a Friday night cooks meeting before the big day. As Vining entered the cook’s tent the participants quickly gathered for important information to be distributed and to have any questions answered.
With 70 BBQ cooks in attendance and about a dozen BBQ judges, we all sat and discussed the stellar food which was to come. Finally, Vining went through some house-keeping rules for the competition and steps which needed to be followed for our success.
On Friday we judged the following: Tasty chicken, hot chili, BBQ sauce, and tender steak. Saturday’s judging included, moist chicken, tasty ribs, pulled pork, brisket, a variety of seafood, and yummy desserts.
Our KCBS representative was Dennis Polson from Kansas. As Polson went through the rules of this event he mentioned that there would be an issue when the horses are coming down the gravel path to the race track. This path was next to the parking lot where the cooks where to cross to get their entries to the judges tent on time. Polson stated, “Make sure to put your number on top of the clam. We had an issue at an event where a champion BBQ cook put it on the bottom! Please don’t do it. And from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. it’s quiet time each night.”
Finally, Vining spelled out the rules and then mentioned, “We have three team champions here at Canterbury this year. This could turn into a premier event in the northwest. We hope this turns into a yearly event.”
With the cooks stoking up their stoves, and anticipating their two-hour naps during the night, they left the tent to try to get some sleep.
On Saturday, Vining was busy as usual with last minute details. I approached him on the run, and then we slipped into his “A” frame trailer, and chatted about his involvement in BBQ. “The first time I judged was 4-5 years ago. It was in Mason City, Iowa. Three years ago I was the Event Coordinator at Big Island Rendezvous BBQ Festival in Albert Lea. I like being in the background at these events. For T.V. what needs to be in front is the BBQ event. We do these events for the cooks first. Then, the second most important job is the judges and then the public.”
Vining’s accomplishments are numerous. “I like to create an event and try to create one that involves the spectator. We have to make it spectator friendly. This is the first year at Canterbury Park. Because of their full support this was an event beyond everyone’s expectations. The other thing is, I think it’s important that there is a mid-range winner, say $500. And at my events, for the teams that come in the middle, say someone that’s a newbie, and is thinking, ‘I want some of my money back.’ It’s a pride thing. We do it to reward those cooks that try so hard to be a good at BBQ.”
A big part of these cooking events is seeing old friends that you only come in contact with at KCBS events. Chuck Harding of Blaine, is a Master Judge. Harding was just the man to talk to about his passion for judging great BBQ. “I enjoy meeting new judges and seeing old friends.” When I asked Harding about a funny story, he had this to say. “There was this young lady, Rose Hilk, who called me Larry for 6-8 years. She finally looked at my name badge and it said, ‘Chuck’! ‘Why is your name Chuck?’ I always call you Larry.’” “I enjoy the bantering back and forth”, said Harding. “I finally straightened her out. Now, she calls me Larry/Chuck!”
With the sweet smell of apple, hickory and assorted flavored woods lingering in the night air, it was time for me to head home and dream of Saturday’s fun events.
Finally, the big day arrived. Early in the morning the horses and jockeys were doing laps around the track. I ventured away from the hustle and bustle of the upcoming event, and meandered through the lines of vendors and cooks. There were many business owners from Wisconsin, Iowa, and Hugo, Minn. just to name a few.
These events aren’t just for BBQ. I came across a Jack Daniel’s Chili Tent from South Dakota. Some of the names were fun too. Such as Magnum Pig, Oinkin Boinkin BBQ, and Mustang Sally Tailgating Championship BBQ Team. While waiting for another event to start I walked around.
I noticed during the two days that my nostrils kept flaring open, trying to take in all the smoky smells that filled the air. It was intoxicating. And this made me hungry. In closing, I’d like to add that these fun-filled events aren’t just for horsing around.
Joanie Buettgen Just another columnist trying out this new stuff. Published: More.com, Minnesota Moments Magazine, Thankful-Home.tv, Carver County Historical Society, Kansas City BBQ Society, Carver County News, National Barn Alliance, and Ridgeview Medical Center newsletter. Memberships: National Society of Newspaper Columnists, Toastmaster’s, Minnesota Newspaper Association, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop attendee. Social Networking: Blog:https://joanie19.wordpress.com, http://twitter.com/joaniebuettgen, http://www.linkedin/com/in/joaniebuettgen.