Where There’s Smoke …

Come May 4, the air will be heavy with the smell of charcoal, smoke and slow-cooked meats as dozens of hard-core barbecue aficionados fire up their grills at the second annual Naptown barBAYq contest and music festival.
    Hosted by the Parole Rotary Foundation, this year’s event kicks off Friday afternoon at the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds and continues all day Saturday, culminating in the crowning of the Kansas City Barbecue Society Grand Champion.
    “You will see, smell and taste food from over 40 professional barbecue teams,” said barBAYq chairman and Rotarian Don Chomas. “Every bite you eat, every sip you drink will help the Parole Rotary Foundation in financing youth-oriented local charities.”
    This year’s beneficiaries of the two-day event are the Pediatrics Emergency Inpatient Unit at Anne Arundel Medical Center and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Annapolis & Anne Arundel County.
    Face-painting, a moon bounce, a kids’ zone and more make this a true family affair.
    In addition to the chicken, pork and ribs cooked up for competition, more than a dozen food vendors will be on hand to fill your need to feed. With three stages hosting more than three dozen bands, you’ll be able to dance off those extra calories.
    “Aside from the competition, I’m looking forward to the live music,” said Craig Lyjak, of South Boston, Mass., competing with his team the Burning Hot UnKnowns.
    “What makes good barbecue?” Lyjak muses. “It’s all about paying attention to the small details.”
    Joel Matteson, who competes with his wife Erin as Pepper Monkey BBQ of Shady Side, add this: “I don’t think you can pinpoint good barbecue to one thing. The secret is to be able to consistently have the right blend of rub, sauce and smoke,” he said. “You don’t want any one to stand out more than other.”
    While the KCBS judges will determine the winners of the three main categories, you, too, can get a taste.
    For $30, a VIP ticket will get you into the tasting tent, where Friday night’s People’s Choice seafood winner will be determined. Come Saturday, VIP ticket-holders will bestow the People’s Choice award for pork barbecue.
    But you don’t need a special ticket to watch the masters at work, battling for prizes and cash.
    “The cooks are really passionate about barbecue,” Lyjak says. “Don’t be afraid to talk to the teams.”