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BY STEFANI DIAS Californian assistant lifestyles editor firstname.lastname@example.org
If you're ready for ribs and all the Q sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, then head on out to the Kern County Fairgrounds for Bakersfield's Biggest Baddest BBQ.
This year you'll certainly have a lot of savory meat to choose from with more than 60 teams contending for the grand champion title in a record turnout of competitors for the fifth annual event.
Fifth annual Bakersfield's Biggest Baddest BBQ
When: 5 to 9 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Kern County Fairgrounds, 1142 S. P St.
Cost: Free admission on Friday; $10, free for children 12 and under on Saturday, which includes barbecue tasting ticket (additional tasting tickets $2).
Information: bakobbq.com or 331-3900
"This by far will be the biggest draw and the biggest team count ever. It's in groups of six (based on judging). We'll stop at 66 teams," said event organizer Mike George, who has registered teams from Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Oregon and Oklahoma.
The field includes some KCBS 2012 event title holders such as Big Poppa Smokers (Kansas City Royal), Left Coast Q (California champion), Ridge Route Boys BBQ (Smokin' in Mesquite) and Burnin' and Lootin' BBQ (California rookie of the year).
So what accounts for the influx of new and returning teams?
"Everybody likes to come to Bakersfield. They tell me it's the people and the location. We put them on grass. A lot of the events are held on asphalt and dirt parking lots. We put them on grass; it's so much cooler. They love the Kern County Fairgrounds."
Along with returning teams, George lauded the cadre of KCBS-certified judges who are the foundation of the event.
"Without the judges, we wouldn't be able to do the event because we wouldn't have fair judging. They (teams) know they'll be judged fairly. ... When the teams exceeded our expectations, we had to escalate that to 15 more judges from (last week's) Long Beach KCBS championship on the Queen Mary."
The competition starts heating up on Friday when attendees get their first look at these barbecue masters with a free preview. Some teams will compete in the optional tri-tip contest, with meat supplied by Wood-Dale Market, and a $500 prize on the line.
As the event continues to grow, George said the public may be able to get in on the action.
"We're thinking about doing a backyard competition next year," where amateur barbecue cooks can face off against registered teams. "Come in and show us what they've got."
Until then, guests can enjoy tri-tip as well as hot dogs, chicken, sandwiches and full dinners at the food court. Vendors will sell shaved ice, kettle corn, doughnuts and coffee.
Mento Buru will set the sound for competition on Friday while Foster Campbell and Friends and Mystic Red will perform Saturday.
Other entertainment on tap is the bigger-than-ever children's play area with a rock-climbing wall.
"The kids zone has grown every year. It's a bigger space, more to do. We were going to have a complete carnival, but we had to pare it back a bit. We always do cupcake decorating and face painting. The bounce houses area is off the hook."
The kids can also pick up a spatula and get cooking at the Kids Q, which will accept up to 25 contestants serving up the best burger they can make.
But the barbecue big guns are on full display Saturday, with teams putting the finishing touches on pork ribs, chicken, brisket and pork. Meat starts going before the judges at noon and guests can judge for themselves with two 2 oz. samples (covered by $10 admission). Additional samples are $2.
After the scores are tallied and the judges are stuffed, awards will be given out at a ceremony at 4 p.m. A total of $10,500 will be awarded to grand and reserve champions and the top 10 contenders in each category (an increase from the top five awarded in the past).
Along with providing a good time, the event benefits local charities. Last year's event raised more than $10,000 for Mendiburu Magic Foundation, Children's Miracle Network and Bakersfield Ronald McDonald House. This year beneficiaries are Mendiburu Magic and JJ's Legacy, which supplied members for the event's governing board, helping it expand with more vendors and sponsors.
That commitment to giving back is what keeps George motivated.
"We're doing it for the love of barbecue, but remember that it's all for local charity. ... One hundred percent of net proceeds stays in Bakersfield."