Albert Lea BBQ growing despite economy

Published 9:08 am Wednesday, August 24, 2011

ALBERT LEA — The Big Island BBQ State Championship is growing at a time when many barbecue competitions are feeling the pinch of the lagging economy.

Event organizer Perry Vining said the Big Island BBQ has 62 teams registered as of Tuesday. He had merely 24 teams as of Aug. 13.

“In one week and a half, we went from 20 to 60. It’s just unreal. I was surprised with the economy the way it is,” Vining said.

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There were 51 teams at the Big Island BBQ last year. The event takes place annually the last weekend of August at the Freeborn County Fairgrounds. The 62 teams are from nine states.

Vining said the barbecue competition has grown in importance in the Midwest. It is a fundraiser for the Big Island Rendezvous, an reenactment of pioneer times that takes place the first weekend of October.

New this year will be a bean bag tossing tournament on Saturday. The tournament is sponsored by the Albert Lea Parks and Recreation Department.

The hours for the Big Island BBQ are 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

The Big Island BBQ will have $1,000 pounds of chicken wings and more than 50 gallons of chili for the public to taste this Friday starting at 6 p.m. Tickets are limited to the first 300. The price is $15. They go on sale at 5:45 p.m.

A band called The Cruisers will perform both days. Barbecue food, sweet corn and refreshments will be sold by vendors both days.

The winning barbecue chefs will vie for $13,000 in prize money and for pottery trophies created by Albert Lea woman Eloise Adams, owner of downtown store Adams Originals.