The Maryland State BBQ Bash, which has become something of a signature event for the county seat, begins Friday, Aug. 10, at 4 p.m. in the parking lot of the Risteau State Office Building off Bond Street in downtown Bel Air.
As in years past, the Bash will run through Saturday afternoon Aug. 11 and will feature barbecue cooking competition, plenty of food and drink, live musical entertainment and other activities.
The MD State BBQ Bash Tailgate Challenge will be held on Friday, featuring 36 amateur teams. Judges will spend the afternoon sampling the chefs' preparations, and a winner will be announced at 7 p.m. The winner will receive $200 and a ribbon; winners for places 2 through 5 will also be announced, and will receive cash prizes.
The judges adjudicating the BBQ Bash have all been certified by the Kansas City BBQ Society [KCBS], the world's largest barbecue and grilling organization. In order to receive certification, would-be judges must attend a four to five hour long class held by KCBS.
"We learned about the four major categories – chicken, ribs, brisket and pork," said Scott Walker, a certified barbecue judge and executive director of the Bel Air Downtown Alliance, the event's principal sponsor. "We also learned about what to look for in color, taste, appearance, texture, and so on. Barbecue is rated on so many categories that at this level of competition, the [total] score goes out to three or four decimal places."
On Saturday, the Bash will be open at noon, following the Saturday Bel Air Farmers Market, which will be held on Hays Street, instead of the usual Bond Street location where the Bash will be set up.
The first event scheduled for Saturday is a new addition to the traditional Bash activities: a Roma Sausage Natty Bohr Brats Eating Contest, sponsored by Past Brewing Company. There is no entrance fee for contest. Anyone interested in competing should e-mail Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Maryland State BBQ Championship will be held throughout Saturday afternoon, with a winner announced at 4 p.m. The winning team will receive $12,500 in cash prizes, as well as the chance to compete in Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue, in Lynchburg, TN and The American Royal Barbecue Competition in Kansas City, Mo. Trophies will also be awarded for second through eighth places, and cash prizes for second through fourth.
A beer and wine garden will be open throughout the Bash with a one dollar admission fee, so festival goers can wash down their barbecue with a cool Natty Boh or Samuel Adams. Please note that no alcohol will be allowed to leave the garden area.
Additionally, free musical entertainment will be provided throughout the celebration. On Friday, Walk-Ins Welcome will perform modern country songs from 5 p.m to 8 p.m. Half an hour later, Jon Pardi, a young up-and-coming country rocker, will play an hour and a half long set featuring his original music. WXCY 103.7, the Havre de Grace based country music station, is sponsoring Jon Pardi, and personalities from the radio station who will be serving as masters of ceremony throughout the bash.
Baltimore radio station 98 Rock will be broadcasting live from the bash throughout Saturday, while the Klassixs and Headrush, both Baltimore-based cover bands playing rock and country standards will be performing during the afternoon. Then, Fiction 20 Down, a Harford County band, will play original music from 7:30 to 10 p.m.
There will also be entertainment for children in the "Little Piggies Fun Zone." Peter Kedzia will be performing as Uncle Pete in an Interactive Musical Celebration throughout the afternoon, with Jeff "Mr. Twister" Teate creating balloon art and performing magic tricks in between Uncle Pete's sets.
Parking is available at nearby Bel Air High School and John Carroll School, with shuttle buses running between the Bash and the high schools for 30 minutes prior to the start of the festival and 30 minutes after the close Friday and Saturday.