"BBQ Pitmasters," a cable TV reality show, will be filming at the festival this year and Smithfield has chosen the site to unveil a new product, she said.

"I can't even put into words how proud I am of the way it's turned out," Fulton said, adding the event has nearly "maxed out" at Winterplace Park, though it can still expand into the parking lot if need be.

Sobwick, Richter's sometime-teammate who's a real estate auctioneer and caterer, calls Richter "a great role model for the barbecue industry because he's so humble," rarely mentioning his bedroom overflowing with trophies.

"He doesn't like showing off and he'll help anyone to a certain extent, even competitors," said Sobwick, 56, who owns Paulie's Cookin' and takes part in the Second Sunday markets held in Ellicott City during spring and summer. He competes in 10 events a year with Richter, but won't be going to Salisbury this time. And Richter helps him out when he's double-booked with catering jobs.

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"The key is consistency," Sobwick said, describing the importance of holding the fire at the right temperature. When Richter became top chef, the team "instantly became better."

Richter, who admits when pressed that he's won several hundred trophies, cops to being a perfectionist. He uses organic parsley to display his cooked meats and a fine painter's brush to finesse the appearance of the finished product.

"You get one bite to make the judges want more," he said of crafting the perfect mouthful of barbecue. "You can't afford to offend with too much heat or too much sweet. You've got to have a happy marriage of flavor."

And yes, he does barbecue at home upon demand.

"I enjoy it and it's a good opportunity to practice," he said. "Neighbors and friends make the best guinea pigs."

The Pork in the Park BBQ Festival will be held April 20 (4-10 p.m.), April 21 (10 a.m.-10 p.m.) and April 22 (11 a.m.-5 p.m.) at Winterplace Park, in Salisbury. Cost is $2 daily for adults; kids younger than 12 are free. Parking is available at the park and there is a shuttle from the Delmarva Shorebirds stadium parking lot. For more information, go to http://www.porkinthepark.org.