Dowtown BBQ showdown set Aug. 17,18

By HASKEL BURNS,

You won’t have to travel to St. Louis or Kansas City to enjoy competition-style barbeque – or to vie for a share of $10,000 in cash and prizes – thanks to the 2018 Downtown BBQ Showdown, set for Aug. 17 and 18 at Town Square Park in downtown Hattiesburg.

Organized by Brian Saffle and presented by the Hattiesburg Historic Neighborhood Association and Brown Bottling Group, the seventh annual event offers spots for 30 professional entries for $250 each and 15 backyard (amateur) entries for $125 each.

“I was kind of sitting around about eight years ago and talking with some guys, and we were saying there’s no major barbeque competition in Hattiesburg,” said Saffle, who owns Signs First in Hattiesburg. “I went to (another local barbeque) before I started this one, and it was kind of low-key.

“But this event is more apt to pull in teams from all over the southeast, rather than just local teams. Last year, I had five states represented – we had teams from Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.”

Teams will begin setting up on Aug. 17 for this year’s event, which is sanctioned by the Kansas City BBQ Society. The barbeque will be open to the public from 5:30-9 p.m. Aug. 17 and from 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 18.

The professional teams will cook chicken thighs, pork shoulders, St. Louis-style ribs and brisket. Teams must finish all four meats to be judged and compete for the $10,000 purse, which will be distributed between first- to third-place overall, as well as first- through fifth-place in each meat category.

The backyard teams will cook chicken and ribs, and will be provided with a pork shoulder to cook to compete for the People’s Choice award. Money will be distributed to backyard teams based on how many entries sign up for the competition.

Public entry to the event is free, but participants who wish to vote for People’s Choice are required to pay $5. Attendees can also enjoy live music and food vendors, along with water, soft drinks and beer for purchase.

Anyone interested in entering a team or serving as a vendor or sponsor can sign up at www.bbqshowdown.blogspot.com or follow at www.facebook.com/downtownbbqshowdown.

“It’ll basically be closed off, kind of like Live at Five, with these big cooking rigs on the side of the street,” Saffle said. “Some of these cooking rigs are $250,000 rigs, because these folks do this for a living – they’ll participate in anywhere between 25 to 30 barbeque competitions throughout the year on the pro side.”

This year will mark be the event’s first appearance at Town Square Park, as it has been held at Walthall Park in years past.

“We’re excited about the changes this year,” said Andrea Saffle, executive director of the Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association. “Moving it to Town Square Park will give it a little more visibility and a closer connection with our downtown businesses. It also allows the event to grow this year.”