This weekend, Rocky Outdoor Gear Store and Boot Grill is hosting the Ohio Smoked Meat and BBQ Festival in Nelsonville. The event will host features such as train rides on the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway-Fall Foliage Train.
Hosted on the historic Nelsonville Public Square and sponsored by the Nelsonville Area Chamber of Commerce, the festival was one of the first in Ohio to be officially certified by the Kansas City Barbecue Society. The festival was also proclaimed Ohio’s first official “championship for smoked meat and barbecue” by the governor 21 years ago, according to event’s website.
Originally held on Hocking College’s campus, the festival was moved to Nelsonville’s Historic Public Square more than 20 years ago. “People had their doubts about the new location in the beginning, but quickly fell in love with the area because of Nelsonville’s close knit community,” said Amy Spoutz, one of the organizers for the competition and festival.
The event will begin at 10 a.m. on Friday. Competitors will begin cooking Friday morning and continue on into the night.
“We’re very excited, it takes a lot of time to organize it for sure,” said Sproutz. In order to make the event successful, it took Sproutz and 10 other members all year to organize.
This year, there are 47 teams competing to win $2,500 and the chance to compete in the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue Competition in Kansas City, Missouri. Each team is judged by six to seven Kansas City Barbecue certified judges in the categories of chicken, beef brisket, pork and ribs.
Historic BBQ, a competitor from Lebanon, is returning this year to compete for the fifth time. Previously, they placed second overall in the competition in 2014 and 10th overall in 2015.
Tony Bunce, the “pitmaster” of Historic BBQ, is very excited to compete in the contest because there are always a lot of Ohio teams competing, which he likes to see.
“The organizers have always put on a great event and the judges seem to like my food, hopefully that trend continues!” Bunce said in a Facebook message.
Teams can range from two members to as many as ten members, as multiple members are needed due to the work required. The competitors are required to cook all of their meat over fire as no electronic devices are allowed to aid in the competition.
Another team competing consists of two members — Paul Grant and his twelve-year-old daughter, also known as Slippery Pete’s BBQ. The team does a lot of traveling throughout other states during the year and they are looking forward to competing in their final contest of the season with their fellow Ohio cooks and friends.
The duo have competed four times in the competition and have placed in the top ten every year. Last year they placed third, their highest finish ever.
“Just like everyone else we hope to win it, but most important to us is that we have a good time and turn in the best product we can to the judges,” Grant said in a Facebook message.
The festival also includes over 14 barbecue vendors who will be serving festival patrons. The competitors of the competition are unable to serve their meat to patrons, as their meats are not certified by health inspectors.
Free entertainment will also be offered over the weekend with performances beginning at 4 p.m. on Friday continuing until 11 p.m.
The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway is also offering Stuart’s Fall Wine Express, where patrons will indulge in wine and cheese to raise money for Stuart’s Opera House. The ride begins at 6 p.m. and will run for an hour and a half.
Members of the community have been working for months in order to make sure the festival is a success.
“We’re hoping to just get everyone on the public square and town, and hope it’s going to keep growing,” said Sproutz.