Another year has come and gone for the 2010 Music City BBQ Festival in Nashville, TN. Despite missing the 1st one in 2009, I can’t say enough good things about this year’s event. In my opinion, the event was a great success by bringing people from all over to enjoy fine BBQ, great music, and wonderful festivities… all while supporting local charities to boot. I definitely hope it will be an annual event for city Nashville for many years to come. Here’s a little bit of information about the festival:
Music City BBQ Festival is a volunteer organization composed of business and community leaders and volunteers from across the state. Since its inception in 2009, the festival has helped raise funds and awareness for local charities such as Shriners Hospitals for Children, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge and Camp Horizon. The festival features a full music line-up along with over 100 BBQ cook teams competing for cash and prizes in a Tennessee State Champion event sanctioned by the Memphis BBQ Network and the Kansas City BBQ Society. The Music City BBQ Festival is run entirely by volunteer efforts.
The event ran from Thursday, August 26 through Saturday, August 28th. Due to my work schedule, I couldn’t make it until Saturday and had quite a restless Friday night just anticipating the event. Never having been to a BBQ festival before, I saw the local news broadcast the event live and couldn’t wait to go. With the gates opening at 10 AM, I woke up early and made sure I had everything I needed for a full write-up: a backpack with pens, a pad of paper, bottles of water, extra batteries for my camera, towels, sunscreen, and last but not least, a bottle of Tums.
There were several benefits to getting there early. I got prime parking and got the opportunity of exploring the whole venue (from Nashborough Fort to Molloy St on 1st Avenue) without having to bump into crowds of people. Unfortunately, getting there early caused you to miss out on the live music they had playing on the main stage out on the Cumberland River in the evenings. I wish they would have had some bands play a little earlier but I suppose it was moot since there was a lack of attendees that early in the day. Regardless, I was there to enjoy myself with the BBQ and festivities and walking down the street to the venue, you could smell the wonderful scent of smoke and barbecued meats in the air from all the competition teams.
Hundreds of tents, trailers, smokers, and banners lined every inch of the Southeast part of 1st Avenue past Broadway. People were either already having fun in the streets or were hard at work tending to their meats to present their best BBQ for the official judging to occur later that day. For those of you that have been to a tailgate at a football game… this is what it was like except everyone had better food.
Almost a hundred teams were registered for the festival. Ranging from pure hobbyists to professional BBQ teams to company-sponsored folk, everyone was giving it their all. Both the Kansas City BBQ Society and the Memphis BBQ Network were judging on various types of BBQ from whole hogs to shoulders to ribs, chicken, and brisket. Of course I have no clue how you would judge BBQ in detail. All I know is that if my tongue liked it, then I would give it an A+. As for results of the BBQ Festival, I only have the KCBS’ results. If you have a link to the MBN’s results, let me know.
For those that wanted BBQ, various commercial BBQ vendors (such as Martin’s BBQ Joint, Whitt’s BBQ, and the multiple-award winning Paradise Ridge BBQ Company of Nashville, TN) served their offerings to the public. However if you wanted to try BBQ from the various competing teams, that was a little harder. Despite being a BBQ festival, you can’t expect to be given BBQ specifically from the teams themselves. Occasionally a BBQ team here and there would offer you their culinary masterpieces for free but the only place get the real deal was the People’s Choice Contest tent. Here, a $5 donation to the Shriners charity would get you a plate of five random teams’ BBQ samplings and a chance to rate them. Each BBQ sample I had had different characteristics of smoky, salty, spicy, and sweet but there really was no such thing as a bad BBQ sample. These folks are very talented indeed.
In the VIP Tent, Haley and I got to meet one of the festival founders, Frank Platt, who was very cordial. There they offered you a beverage and food catered by Tennessee’s own Martin’s BBQ Joint in Nolensville, TN. Martin’s offers some of the best BBQ around: great BBQ, a spicy & tangy sauce, and some of the best baked beans you’ll ever have consumed… I need to pay them an official visit soon.
BBQ teams aside, there numerous sponsors and vendors offering information, contests, and plates of their respective goods and services. One of the most memorable was Scotty and Kevin from Extreme Freeze Ice Cream. New to Nashville (but already existing in Ohio), Extreme Freeze uses liquid nitrogen to create fresh, homemade ice cream almost instantly. They offered to show me an awesome demonstration on how it was made. They essentially took their mixture of fresh ingredients and slowly added refrigerated liquid nitrogen while mixing it up together. They assured me liquid nitrogen is safe and is actually used by frozen food manufacturers all over the world like frozen pizzas and vegetables. Liquid nitrogen is so cold; it freezes the ingredients so quickly so that no ice crystals can form. The end result is an ice cream that is silky, smooth, and creamy… unlike anything I’ve ever had. They informed me that they just started their website, which just lists each person’s phone number but they hope to break into the Nashville market soon.
Other vendors included offerings of “fair food”: lemonade, smoothies, snow cones, blooming onions, funnel cakes, roasted peanuts & corn, as well as various meats on a stick and sausages. Despite the tempting smells and plate presentations of the vendors, I avoided them because I just wanted BBQ. I did of course try some lemonade (but it ended up not being freshly squeezed to my dismay) by Backyard Lemonade and homemade sodas by Bayou Billy (which was ok, but was very sweet and had hardly any carbonation).
Another vendor, The Pig and Pie of Nashville, was featured on the local NBC affiliate’s news on Friday night. While they offered normal BBQ fare, the one that interested me the most was the BBQ Nachos. I was already full from all the BBQ I had eaten earlier but I wanted to at least try the nachos before I left. Luckily for me, Haley convinced them to serve me a half order of BBQ Nachos for half price. I wish I would have gotten a full order of nachos instead. These nachos were some of the best I’ve ever had. Being used to Mexican-style nachos, these were much better. A colorful blend of red, yellow, and green tortilla chips smothered in a heaping pile of pulled pork, pickled jalapenos, lettuce, and nacho cheese… and finally drizzled with sweet BBQ sauce. The result was a taste overload of vinegary hot from the peppers, the crunch from the lettuce and chips, the smoky, savory flavor from the pulled pork, creaminess from the cheese sauce and then a sweetness from the BBQ sauce. Outstanding!
I was expecting a chance to try some BBQ ribs but I guess ribs are harder to come by (and more expensive) than pulled pork. Regardless, I left the 2010 Music City BBQ Festival gorged on as much swine as I could eat and very happy in both mind and stomach. I had a great time and having some of the best BBQ I would ever experience, I can’t wait for next year to arrive. The festival was everything I thought it would be and much more. A big thanks goes to Jessica French, Festival Media Liaison, for answering several of my questions and helping me to familiarize myself with the festival.
|2010 Music City BBQ Festival
100 1st Avenue North
Nashville, TN 37201