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Smoke on the Mountain, Galax’s annual barbecue contest, has drawn fierce but friendly competitors for a decade. This year, the stakes have been raised.
“We just received an email from the Memphis Barbecue Network in the last month,” said Smoke on the Mountain Site Director Ron Passmore.
According to the MBN, Smoke on the Mountain will be one of only eight events in the network’s vast calendar that is a qualifier for the World Food Championship in Las Vegas this November.
“They can send eight grand champions. I don’t know exactly how many contests Memphis has across the country, I would say a couple hundred, so they have had to select only eight grand champions” to send to the World Food Championship, Passmore said.
“They picked contests out of all those on their circuit. We were selected. And we didn’t even know this was going on.”
The selection proves to Passmore that Smoke on the Mountain is doing something right.
“What that tells me is that we’re in their top eight. Of course that makes us now more attractive to teams. To go to these big competitions, you don’t just pay your money and go. You have to be a reigning grand champion of a contest that gets you there.”
“It’s huge for us, it makes us really excited,” said Shannon Dalton, this year’s judging chairperson.
The MBN is not the only network involved in the event. The Kansas City Barbecue Society winners won’t get a seat at the World Food Championship, but competing for a top spot is still a priority for many entrants, many of whom enter in both networks’ competitions.
Additionally, several compete just for the love of the location, some traveling from several states away for the privilege.
“We fell in love with the town. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking. Even getting there, we were already in love with Galax,” said “Mama Shed” (Linda Orrison, president of the National BBQ Association and matriarch of The Shed, a barbecue restaurant in Biloxi, MS).
“When we got there, the people were just so kind and so nice to us. And then when we got into the competition... that was an extremely well put-together, organized contest,” Orrison said. “And for it to be a dual contest, KCBS and MBN, and for that to come off smoothly, like it did last year? That hardly ever happens. So, yeah, we’re hooked on Galax.”
Smoke on the Mountain was featured on The Shed team’s TV show last year on the Food Network.
Along with the regular competitions in whole hog, ribs and pork shoulder, there will be divisions that locals are particularly encouraged to enter, including a category for sauce and “Anything Butt,” which is an entry for any type of food that isn’t barbecued meat.
There will also be a “Patio Porkers” division for backyard barbecuers who think their home-cooked meats are good enough to be judged by professionals.
This year’s Smoke on the Mountain is July 18-19.
• Information, schedules, rules and entry fee prices can be found online at www.smokeonthemountainva.com.