Fire up those barbecue grills

Published 10:15 am Friday, April 24, 2009

Summer’s coming and with it brings a time for nice weather, fishing on the lake and long runs without a long-sleeved shirt.

Oh, and a chance to fire up the barbecue.

Austin is gearing up for the latter as the 2009 Minnesota in May State Championship BBQ Contest grills out May 15 and 16 at the Mower County Fairgrounds.

The event is in its fourth year in Austin and is one of five state championships to be held throughout Minnesota this summer. It will also be the first of the season for the championships, with the others being held in Albert Lea, Owatonna, Watertown and Marshall.

“You get a lot of cooks who want to get the bugs out,” said Perry Vining, coordinator of this year’s Minnesota in May. “You know cabin fever? Well for them, it’s cooking fever. It’s exciting. It’s really something I’m looking forward to.”

This year’s festivities are packed with traditional favorites, new additions and of course the vendors and the barbecue.

On Friday, May 15, three new features will take place, including two people’s choice contests: chili and chicken wings.

Vining expects to have at least 100 gallons of chili on hand and 500 pounds of chicken wings.

Admission to Minnesota in May is free, but for $3 a spoon, guests can sample all the different varieties of chili and vote for their favorite, and for $5, those in attendance can sample eight different kinds of chicken wings and vote as well.

Proceeds for both events will benefit the Paramount Theatre and go toward the Ellis Middle School’s trip to the Big Island Rendezvous Education Day in Albert Lea this October.

Also on Friday, live music will be played Friday by the band Blue Denim and a new kids barbecue contest heats up as well.

For the kids event, entry fee is $25 per team, which consists of one youth ages 7-10 or 11-15 and one adult. Grills will be provided, but participants will need to bring the chicken. Prizes include a $100 savings bond for first, a $50 bond for second and a $25 bond for third.

“We’re so excited about this because it brings families to the event,” Vining said.

On Saturday, a kids vehicle fair will complement the other barbecue contests, which include the main four of chicken, pork shoulder, ribs and beef brisket. Competitors must enter all four contests to be eligible for the grand champion prize of $2,000.

Vining said his goal is to attract 4,000 people in all to Minnesota in May, which features a total prize purse of $10,000.

Last year, 48 teams entered competitions.

For Saturday’s categories, there will also be a first-time “Anything Spam” competition using classic Spam, as well as a desserts competition, which don’t have to be made on a grill.

Entry fees are $50 per team, per category, with a maximum of $250 to be paid.

Teams aren’t limited to a number of people, but must consist of only one head cook.

Mike Perreault and his family are getting ready. His team he calls the “Fire Fightin’ Cookin’ Crew,” which consists of himself, his two daughters and a friend of the family, competes in competitions throughout the country.

Perreault is especially looking forward to the wings category.

“We’re excited about the wings, the wings and the Spam,” he said.

For more information about Minnesota in May or to enter any of the contests, call Perry Vining at (507) 402-6371.