2011 Festival Tour - Hog Wild BBQ Championship: Mobile

The Third Coast is a hot spot for food and drink festivals of all incarnations.  It is my plan to chronicle some of the great festivals to be found in the region.  This time around I visited the 10th Annual Hog Wild BBQ Championship in Mobile, AL.  The event is a fund raiser for United Cerebral Palsy.

Barbecue teams from near and far traveled to Alabama's Port City to compete for the money and prestige under a brilliant Third Coast sun.  But there's a good deal more to Hog Wild than just a bunch of charred animal carcass.  There were 69 teams in total competing for over $13000.00 in prize money in the KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue Society) sanctioned event.

Visitors were treated to live music from a number of local acts on two stages, games for the kiddies, vendors hocking various items but most commonly homemade BBQ sauce and of course there was lots and lots of barbecue.  As far as the contest itself there were both pro-am and full professional BBQ teams including some of the heavy hitters you've seen on shows like Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Food Network Challenge and TLC's Pitmasters including Bub-Ba-Q owner William “Bubba” Latimer, Danielle Diva-Q Dimovski and the man in black, Jack's Old South owner Myron Mixon. 

Most of the competitors were more than happy to lend a little knowledge or to just talk shop with BBQ enthusiast.  Many were proud of their rigs and took great pleasure in demonstrating how they worked and what went into building them like the team from The Shed in nearby Ocean Springs, MS who's competition pit is built into the frame of an old 50's era Jeep Wagon.  Another team has a pit shaped like a dragon that billowed smokey goodness from the beast's nostrils.  There were dozens of local teams and some that came from as far away as Canada.  The camaraderie within this carnivore caravan is one of the first things you notice about them.  Sure they want to beat each other but just as much they want to spend a beautiful weekend with a bunch of people who have the same love of outdoor cooking that they have.

And, because man cannot live on BBQ alone, there were concessions set-up doing a brisk business selling lemonade, funnel cakes, Polish sausages and various meats-on-a-stick like jumbo hand-battered corn dogs and foot-long chicken tenders.  The children were kept busy climbing the rock wall, riding bungee swings and enjoying the critters at the petting zoo.  The crowd was well behaved and all seemed to be having a great time on what was a beautiful day with temperatures in the low 70's and nary a cloud to be found.  But possibly the most popular attendee at the Hog Wild BBQ Festival was Greasy, a pot belly pig dressed in a pick polka dotted tutu that apparently is as big a celebrity on the KCBS circuit as any of the championship teams.

Next on the tour is the Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off which features a special appearance from Food Network's Alton Brown.
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