Bring on the BBQ

Published 10:16 am Thursday, May 14, 2009

Get ready for a grill-out fest.

This weekend, the Mower County Fairgrounds will be transformed into a barbecue lover’s paradise, complete with the aromas of chili, chicken, ribs, pork and beef brisket.

The fourth annual Minnesota in May State BBQ Contest returns to Austin Friday and Saturday and opens Friday with a People’s Choice chili contest and a kids barbecue at 5 p.m., followed by a People’s Choice chicken wings contest at 7 p.m.

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On Saturday, more than 70 teams will face off for a chance to win a share of the $10,000 total prize purse. Competitors must enter all four main contests of chicken, pork shoulder or butt, ribs and beef brisket to be eligible for the grand champion prize of $2,000.

Last year’s contest featured 48 teams, and organizers hope to attract more 4,000 people over the weekend.

“To go from 48 teams to more than 70 teams is just wonderful,” said Perry Vining, coordinator of Minnesota in May for 2009. “I’m really impressed with Austin, the business community, the individuals and the sponsors.”

Admission to Minnesota in May is free, and this year’s festivities feature everything from vendors selling barbecue to an Anything Spam contest.

On Friday, for $3 a spoon, guests can sample different varieties of chili and vote for their favorite and for $5, chicken wing lovers can sample eight different kinds of chicken wings and vote as well.

Also on Friday, barbecue fans can meet the cooks entered into Saturday’s events and take home some tips they can use on their own.

“If you like to grill in your backyard, this is the time to come because you can ask questions,” Vining said.

“These are the best of the best. They’ll open up and tell you everything you need to know to grill.”

Minnesota in May will also offer live music Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

Saturday’s events offer a kids’ vehicle expo from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the cooking contests begin with Anything Spam at 11:25 a.m. The main four barbecue contests will be held form 11:55 a.m. to 1:35 p.m., with the cooking wrapping up with the dessert contest from 1:55 p.m. to 2:05 p.m.

The awards ceremony is planned for 4:30 p.m.

When: Friday and Saturday

Where: Mower County Fairgrounds

Cost: Admission is free; vendors will offer food for purchase

Minnesota in May is one of five state championships to be held throughout Minnesota this summer. It’s the first of the season, with the others being held in Albert Lea, Owatonna, Watertown and Marshall.

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

And it all happens this weekend, including the aroma of down-home barbecue cooking.

“All that smoke and all those grills – it’s going to be sweet,” Vining said.