Saturday, August 24, 2013

BBQ Pitmasters Finale and Blue Ridge BBQ Festival - Tryon, NC

Alexis and I went to the Blue Ridge BBQ and Music Festival in Tryon, NC back in June but I have been sitting on this post because Destination America was there filming the finale of BBQ Pitmasters Season 4 which airs this Sunday night at 9pm Eastern. 

The Event
This was our first time at Tryon and we were very impressed with the overall event.  Tryon is located in the lush, green rolling hills on the Eastern side of the Great Smoky Mountains.  It is a small town of less than 2,000 but they know how to put on a big time event.  Blue Ridge BBQ and Music Festival is a KCBS event so the normal 4 meats (chicken, ribs, pork, brisket) are turned in for blind judging by certified bbq judges and rated 1-9 for appearance, taste, and tenderness.   This event is part of a Triple Crown deal in which the highest cumulative winner of this event, Maggie Valley, and Franklin wins an additional prize.  
Overlooking the vendor and craftsman area on a beautiful summer day.
Much of the competitors areas are situated in the cool shade of tall hickory.  

The Teams
Ninety eight teams brought their pits for the 20th edition of the event.  I was surprised how few Tennessee teams were present but some of our favorites like Rocky Top BBQ and Smoke On This were there.  We also befriended some new teams like Bubba's Backyard BBQ from Alexis, NC.

The Cookers
As with most events, there was a wide range of smokers in use.
"My butt smells better than yours"

There were a lot of stick burners.

Jambo, the Ferrari of pits.

Another Jambo.

A stick burner and an Egg, my kind of rig.

Rocky Top BBQ's Jambo.

A trio of Webers is a fine arsenal and cost thousands less than a Jambo ;)

The Weather
We couldn't have asked for a more "Chamber of Commerce" day with mild temperatures (for the middle of June) and a vivid blue sky.

The Entertainment
At some BBQ contests, there isn't much to do except watch the team turn in their boxes but at Tryon there is plenty of activities to keep the visitors busy.  Two stages of music, carnival rides, food vendors, craftsman, and cooking demos by The Great American BBQ Tour.

 The event hosted a pig pickin' for the volunteers, VIP, and media.  It was quite good!

Someone had too much "entertainment".  As seen at Bubba-Q's site.  

Not as easy as it looks...and it doesn't look easy.

Craftsman working on site.

The food vendor area smelled intoxicatingly wonderful.

Two large tents provided shade and a place to eat.

Mike Peters was there doing cooking demonstrations and giving out samples as part of a 22 event tour for the Great American Cookout Tour.

The Competition
I think the fact that BBQ Pitmasters was on site filming their finale and a shot at the WNC BBQ Points Chase upped the ante because everyone brought their A-game.  I was trying to explain to someone what turn in time is like and came up with this.  It is intense and there is a lot going on but it is oddly quiet, much like being in a car accident.  

The walk to turn-ins at Tryon has a beautiful view!

The Results
1 - Rocky Top Barbecue
2 - Hambones by the Fire
3 - Wild Bunch Butt Burners

1 - Rocky Top Barbecue
2 - The Blue Bloods
3 - Sauced! BBQ

1 - Fowl Butt BBQ
2 - Saucemans BBQ
3 - Smoke In The Mountains

1 - Smoke In The Mountains
2 - Chatham Artillery BBQ
3 - Rocky Top Barebecue

Reserve Grand Champion
Wild Bunch Butt Burners

Grand Champion
Rocky Top Barbecue - Congrats to Walt and Rebekah Moulton who have been on fire in the East TN/West NC region this year.
Photo credit:

BBQ Pitmasters Finale - Behind The Scenes
Ever wonder what really goes on behind the scenes at these reality show competitions?  It is a lot of work by a bunch of people but there is also a lot of downtime.  The three finalists who rose above the crowd on Season 4 are Pellet Envy, Sugars Championship BBQ, and Butchers BBQ.  The final test of their pitmaster prowess is whole hog, a fitting finale.  

Sugars during judging.

Butchers BBQ and Sugars Championship BBQ waiting during judging.

Not exactly the "green room" but it is green.

It looks like the competitors all cooked on Lang cookers for this event.

Rod Gray discusses his whole hog turn in.

And the BBQ Pitmaster champion is.........

Just kidding, you have to tune in the Destination America channel Sunday Night at 9pm!

Tryon put on a fantastic event and I look forward to going next year.  I just don't know whether I'll be doing that as a judge or a competitor.


  1. Fabulous event Chris with great photos. As I scrolled down, I felt as if I was there with you guys. That's a lot of people for a small town! Very impressive.

    There is no way my photographer, who is afraid of heights, would go up that high on a ladder for a food shot. How about you?

  2. What a beautiful location. Thanks for sharing all these photos.

  3. Wow, great pics and some off those bbq rigs are off the charts. Good to see a few bullets were in the mix, that's what I use and I love it!

  4. Nice post! Sheesh, for a minute we thought you were going to spoil the finale for us! Sugar's is from the PNWBA - Pacific Northwest Barbecue Association - we judge for this group. Lynnae and Corree have done a great job competing on Pitmasters. And they have also been really good about not sharing the results with any of us. Lynnae got her start competing with WSM's, upgrading to a full pit recently. Corree has her own team but teamed up with Sugar's for the Pitmaster competition. We will be watching tomorrow night for certain!! Go Sugar's!!!!

  5. I love looking at the clever team names, logos and tag lines. Great stuff. That's quite an event.

  6. Thanks for sharing, Chris!I am a huge pork fan and I Would love to go to a festival like that one!

  7. thats whats missing from L.A. Those down to earth, get real, down home festivals. The LA county fair has nothing on this event! (and I'm still cracking up at the team named "Too Bad You're My Cousin" LOLOLOL)

  8. Now I want BBQ. Not sure what I'm going to find here in Helena, MT. This would be an amazing festival to attend.

  9. Chris - This looks like a perfectly pleasant day, all the way around. Love all the shots, although "my butt smells better than yours" certainly made me laugh.

    I found the tri color tortilla strips at Kroger in the produce section. We have one of those fancy new mega Kroger's and they are hanging with the croutons and salad toppers over by all the bagged lettuce.

  10. Looks like such a great time!! Good food... good weather... hilarious team names... what more could you ask for?

  11. Looks like an incredible event. Perfect weather. Cool pits and the teams have awesome names and logos. Love seeing all the old cars. Jealous that you got to attend.

  12. So jealous I couldn't be at this!

  13. What a fun time with beautiful weather and super tasty grub! Looking forward to see who won!

  14. I have been following your blog almost from the beginning and this post really brought home how our interests evolve change and grow. I have learned a lot reading your blog posts and have enjoyed taking the journey with you from grilling on the back porch to taking it to the next level, and taking in the BBQ events with the pit masters. Love it.

    No doubt that this would be a fun way to spend the day.


    P.S. Thanks for following along with me too-from cooking to serious gardening, learning to preserve and beekeeping. btw, a good starter beehive with equipment should not cost you more than $500.

  15. I love the names of some of these. "Too Bad You're My Cousin" is an especial favorite.

  16. Yee Ha... FANTASTIC POST! Loved all the behind the scenes. Plenty of room, wonderful shaded area... looks like a great place for this event. Thanks for all the extra effort on this post!


  17. Why is that? have you been in that situation? hahaha just kidding, it is a very cool name.

  18. I loved your shots of the team banners. I get a chuckle at some of the creative team names. One of my favorites in these parts is "Drunken Uncles" (Ruining Family Gatherings for Years).

  19. Chris, great times and this is why I love the South! I think this isn't too far from Greenville, SC area where we wanted to retire. Love it,love it with this event---all the team names. Only in the South and I want to go back after living there years ago.


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