By the very early hours of Saturday, May 14, you’ll smell it too. The smokey scent of the Parole Rotary Foundation’s inaugural Naptown barBAYq contest and festival will curl into Arnold, Edgewater, Crownsville, beckoning you to the grounds of the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Here’s why you — and all you others beyond the reach of that irresistible aroma — better lock that event into your calendar.
1. More barbecue than you’ve ever seen in one place.
Big Ass Trucks — the preferred name for these wheeled cooking rigs — from around the country have disgorged 44 teams of dedicated barbecue chefs who’ll light those fires and cook all night for bragging rights and championship points.
Jokers and Smokers, Serial Griller, Porkers in Paradise, Fat Guys in a Little Smoke and the other 40 are serious Q-ers, despite their often-comic names.
For the 400 or so teams sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, barbecue gives them reason for living. Like moths attracted to light — or nonvegetarians to the smell of barbecue — they’re drawn to barbeque cook-offs.
“Obsession is one word, and passion the other,” Carolyn Wells, founder of the Kansas City Barbecue Society, told Bay Weekly. “A whole sub-culture — or should I say super-culture — has grown up around this food group.”
A dozen or so of the teams hale from Maryland. One is Philip Lamborne of Annapolis Catering, who’s a newcomer to Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned competition. He’d meant to join and finally did now because “this event is right in my back yard.”
Lamborne is anything but a novice to the art of barbecue.
“I reluctantly spent over 50 days in Jamaica getting recipes from every jerk stand I could,” the Q-er told Bay Weekly. “So I’m one of few in this continent who cooks authentic jerk, which is sweet with allspice and nutmeg but not necessarily fiery.”
Other competitors come from New York …
By Society rules, contestants arrive at 7am Friday, and meat is inspected between 10am and 6pm to meet health and competition regulations. All cooking must be done on-site, on wood or charcoal, and the cooking fires rage through the night.
That will be a long, hungry night if you’re downwind of all that smoke.
2. You’ll get to eat what you smell
The meat starts coming off the grills about noon. Chicken first, followed by pork ribs, pork butt and beef brisket, on the half-hour. First, the judges — also members of the Kansas City Barbeque Society — take their share and make their rulings.
All this time, you’re drooling like Pavlov’s dog.
Then, at 2:15, the People’s Choice Competition opens up in the Golden Ticket tasting tent, with pulled pork on the menu.
You’ll pay $40 for the privilege of satisfying the appetite you’ve been working up. But it’s worth every cent. First, your nose won’t let you resist. Second, Parole Rotary is doing it all for charity.
3. It’s for a good cause.
Rotarians are compelled to do good works the way these 44 teams are driven to barbeque.
In the course of a year, the Parole Rotarians raise tens of thousands of dollars for their causes, primarily by parking cars at Navy football games. Their signature cause is the BIG Book Collection and Sales. Through year-round 24-hours collection and twice-annual sales, Parole Rotary raises the money to send books to servicemen and women and to needy schools around the globe.
The lure of big money to fund their charitable giving moved the group to the complex craft of festival throwing.
In choosing a barbecue competition sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society, they’re following the lead of other Rotaries.
Rotarian Bill Fine dreams of “$65,00 or $70,000 in a couple of years,” based on the charitable take of a Colorado Rotary chapter’s two-day barbecue festival: $70,000 from 26,000 people and 160 vendors.
To match up with big hopes, they’ve chosen a big cause: kids with cancer. The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center Pediatric Oncology Program is the main beneficiary of this year’s barBayq festival.
Good works in other parts of the community also benefit, by application.
4. You’ll get some tips from the experts.
With so much barbecue knowledge concentrated in one place, barBAYq is hog heaven for apprentice Q-ers.
“The barbecue teams are colorful, all hams who love to talk,” say the Kansas City Barbeque Society’s Wells. “But they won’t share their secret, because they’d have to kill you.”
Likely true, but who can resist talking about their obsession? Flattery and well-placed questions will gain you knowledge.
For example, Wells, herself a champion, explains that falling-off-the-bone ribs are delicious, but they don’t score as well in judging. They’re too well done.
As well as the 44 competing teams, more than 50 judges — all accredited by the Society — will be on hand.
In the heat of competition — from late morning Saturday until after the judging, around 2:30 — you won’t want to pester the competitors or the judges. Otherwise, this is a spectator-friendly competition.
5. There’ll be plenty to eat, and not only barbecue.
Pit Boys, Jacked Up BBQ and Buffalo Wild Wings Annapolis will serve barbecue both days, while the People’s Choice tent opens only at 2:15pm Saturday. But if you’re saving your barbecue hunger for the competitors, you’ll find other options from food vendors such as California Tortilla, Annapolis Seafood, Vocellis Pizza and Cherokee Quisine.
To all that savory, Brusters Real Ice Cream adds the sweet.
6. It’s a music festival, too, with local bands taking the stage both days.
The Rob Levit Trio: Frank Russo, drums, Amy Shook, bass, and Rob Levit, guitar.
SoulDog opens the festival at 3:45pm on Friday. At 5pm, the Rob Levit Trio takes over. “We’re best known,” the energetic trio leader says, “for putting a new, refreshing spin on familiar tunes, from the Beatles to James Brown, then seguing into jazz and Latin.”
D’Vibe and Conga comes on at 6:20pm, playing freestyle, reggae to get you up and moving. The young Annapolis band Sweet Leda keeps the pump going from 7:40 till 9pm with high-energy, high-impact rock and roll. Dean Crawford and the Dunn’s River Band, with their special knack for making classic rock and roll songs their own, close out Friday’s music.
Pandomonia — this year’s winner of Anne Arundel County’s high school Battle of the Bands — gives Saturday a loud start at 11am. The kids say their influences are The Killers, Bloc Party, Muse, jazz music in general and the Mahavishnu Orchestra.
CrimeStoppers are on the scene at 12:05pm, playing barroom blues/rock. Local favorite the Mike Butler Trio plugs in at 1:25pm. Butler plays loud and fast and is the right band to watch with a barbecue sandwich in your hand. At 2:45pm, Katies Got Guts features four up-and-coming musicians blending pop, rock and punk. Coming down from Pittsburgh, the Heads Up Band, up at 4:40pm, mixes classic rock and modern Top 40 hits. Closing out the festival at 6pm is the Chris Sacks Band.
7. Win a new Weber Summit E670 grill.
At 74.1 inches wide, the Cadillac of barbecue grills gives serious Q-ers six burners, a sear station, rotisserie, smoker box, lighted control knobs and a side burner. The Summit sells for over $2,000; Rotary tickets are only $5 each, or five for $20 — all for the very good cause of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center Pediatric Oncology Program.
8. The Bayhawks — and their cheerleaders — kick up more fun.
Ending the festival at 7pm Saturday, The Bayhawks take to the game field. This is the home opener for the Bayhawks, who are the winners of the 2010 Major League Lacrosse Championship. It’s a battle of the animals as the BayHhawks play the Rochester Rattlers.
You get two chances to see the Hawkettes, the Bayhawks cheerleaders. Before cheering on their team, they’ll dance you into the mood for the fun to follow at 7:20pm on Friday.
9. Fireworks finish the fun.
Win or lose, the Bayhawks light up the night sky. Either way, you’ll come away from these two days a winner.
10. It’s free.
You can look and listen all you like from 4pm on Friday to 9:30pm on Saturday and not spend a cent.
But ever cent you do spend helps the parole Rotarians carry out their good works.