On July 10 & 11 we headed out to Shannon, IL for the 18th Annual Illinois State BBQ Championship. Shannon is a small community southwest of Freeport in Northwest Illinois. This is the oldest and largest BBQ competition in the state of Illinois. In addition to the Illinois State BBQ Championship Shannon also hosted the 11th annual Butt-to-Butt Invitational. The Butt-to-Butt brings in the top pork cooks in the country each year and they cook on Thursday and Friday. The winner of the But-to-Butt earns $1000 cash and the coveted Boar's Tooth trophy. This year our sponsor, Pork Pullin' Plowboys, was invited to compete in the Butt-to-Butt after winning the pork category at the Great American BBQ and the American Royal Invitational.
The competition at Shannon is held at the BBQ Field of Dreams, which is a nice park with great facilities including abundant electrical hookups. Since it is only about two hours from home we planned on hitting the road at about 8:00. that would get us to Shannon with plenty of time to set up and relax before getting to work. I was awakened at 5:30 by a text message from Todd of the Pork Pullin' Plowboys askin about dinner plans! So much for sleeping in :) Todd also mentioned that it was starting to rain in Shannon. We were on our way by about 7:45 and drove in heavy rain almost the whole way. the rain ended as we arrived at the Field of Dreams and we were directed to our requested spot next to Todd.
Because of the heavy rain the field was very wet and with all of the tricks and trailers cruising around things were pretty muddy. By the time we were in our space both the truck and trailer were quite dirty.
As were were settig up or equipment the wind was blowing hard enough for us to decide to keep the canopy in the bag for a while We were glad that we did! About 15 minutes later the wind kicked up from the northeast and was blowing at lest 30 mph. A couple of teams suffered some canpoy damage and others scrambled to either secure theirs or take them down. Our neighbors were trying to find a place to strap theirs to so i told them to tie it to our trailer. If the trailer was moving because of the wind then we had bigger problems that saving the canopies! :)
Todd had a flag pole up with a US flag and a Kansas state flag and it was almost at a 45 degree angle in the wind. He said that is was rated at 90 mph, I helped him brace it with a tie down jus in case.
That wind lasted for a couple of hours and then dies down to a gentle breeze. then the clod cover cleared and the wind switched to the west and was blowing even harder than before! That lasted for an hour or so before dying down for good. We finally decided to put up our canopy.
Since the Butt-to-Butt was going on the cooks meeting for the BBQ Championship wasn't until 8:00. Todd asked me to help him with his turn in box for the Butt-to-Butt so I helped out and then we started working on dinner. Todd had brought some giant ribeye steaks with him and Amy and I brought fresh sweet corn and fresh berries for dessert. We cooked the corn on Todds pellet grill and then put it into one of his FEC-100s to keep hot while he grilled the steaks.
After dinner we went to the cook's meeting and then stayed for the announcement of the Butt-to-Butt results. We were thrilled to hear Pork Pullin' Plowboys announced as the winner! After getting congratulations all around Todd went to his trailer to call his family and his cooking partner, Andy, who was cooking in the Chest-to-Chest Brisket Invitational in great bend, Kansas. Pork Pullin' Plowboys had also received an invitation to the Chest-to-chest so Todd and Andy split up to cook both. A while later Todd came out of the trailer to announce that Andy had just called an Pork Pullin' Plowboys had als won the Chest-to-Chest! What a great weekend for the Plowboys!
OK... Back to the Illinois State BBQ championships! We stuck to our normal schedule and put the big meats into the cooker after the cooks meeting and broke out the Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker and shared margarita love with our neighbors. We visited with the guys from Cook's Bay, Smokey Joel, Logjammin BBQ, Duce's Wild and Brew-B-Que. One of the great things about these competitions is the people that we meet. After that it was time for bed.
I was up early to check on the big meats and to start the coffee. Several teams visited us for the traditional Roastin' Ronnie's coffee! Later that morning some friends fro Batavia came to visit us. Ken and Gayle drove out in their camper and they stayed with us through the awards ceremony before heading off for a couple of days of camping. We always enjoy visitors but we're especially glad to see Ken and Gayle since they are always willing to pitch in when it is time to pack things up :).
The whole process of crunch time went smoothly and we turned in all fice categories on time. Shannon has an extra sausage category that goes to the judges at 2:00 PM. With the extra hands we had everything cleanned up and packed by the time the awards started at 3:30. the award announcements started with the sausage cagtegory and we weren't called. Then on to chicken and we sat through all 10 places without hearing our name. Ribs were next and by the time they got to third place and we weren't called we were getting nervous. Then they announced first place for ribs and it was us! We have not done well with our ribs this year and we made some minor adjustments thanks to some advice from Todd, so we were thrilled! Next they announced the pork category and we did not get a call. We were disappointed again since we thought that our pork was very good. For brisket they called the first 9 places and we thought that our goal of being in the top 10 was gone but then we were called for first place brisket for the second competition in a row! The next award to be announed was the Land of Lincold award which is given to the top scoring team from Illinois. We were shocked to hear our team called! Next it was time for the overall results. We felt good that we would be in the top 10, but we had no idea how we did in chicken and pork so we didn't know where we would finish. Mike lake called 10 - 3 and we didn't hear our name. When third place was called and it was cancersuckschicago.com, a team from Illinois, I know that we were either Grand Champion or Reserve Grand Champion since we had won the Land of Lincoln award so we had to have finished higher than any other Illinois team. The next spot to be announced was RGC and we heard Captain Ron's Brew-n-Que called! Of course we were thrilled. then they announced the GC and it was Iowa Smokey D's BBQ, a very nice team out of Des Moines. They had placed 1st, 2nd and 3rd in three of the four categories so their point total was higher than ours.
Of course we would rather have been Grand Champion, but Reserve at Shannon and the land of Lincoln Award is fantastic and we're thrilled.