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Minnesota in May barbecue contest returns

It’s not just a contest. It’s also a reunion.

About 50 teams are expected to compete in the Minnesota in May barbecue contest Friday and Saturday at the fairgrounds. This is the first barbecue event of the season in Minnesota, according to Randy Appelgren, vice president of the Minnesota Barbecue Society. For many of the participants, it’s the first time they’ve seen barbecue friends since September.

“It’s just a bunch of people who cook together all summer long,” Appelgren said.

In the past, public events like a beer garden and performances were coupled with the barbecue contest. No public events are scheduled this year because of a poor showing last year, largely because of poor weather, Appelgren said.

The contest will still bring many people to town, as each team will have an average of four participants. The teams will compete in four categories: chicken, ribs, pork shoulder and brisket. This year, there will also be a category called Anything But, where contestants can submit any food except for the four main meats. There will also be a category for desserts.

The number of participants will be down from last year when 70 teams competed. Appelgren said that’s largely because of the cost of competitions. He said it costs participants about $1,000 to compete when you add the cost of fuel, entry fees, cooking materials, travel expenses and a hotel.

Despite the cost, Appelgren said people keep coming back for the camaraderie.

“It’s competitive as can be, but once it’s all said and done there are 50 teams that are all going to leave here as friends,” Appelgren said.

While there are no public events this year, Appelgren said people are invited to stop out to the fairgrounds and ask questions and talk to the participants.

A total of $10,000 in prize money will be given out. The contest is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society.