By LEAH TATE
Barbecue pitmasters from across the country converged at the corner of Spring Street and Riverside Drive in Jeffersonville once again to season and smoke up pork perfection at the fifth annual Smokin’ on the River BBQ, Blues and Brew Festival on Friday and Saturday.
Around fifty professional teams vied for the grand championship trophy and a share of $8,500 in prize money, while about twenty backyard amateur teams competed for bragging rights in four categories: chicken, ribs, pork and brisket.
Smokin' has drawn attention from professional pitmasters nationwide after becoming an official Kansas City Barbecue Society, or KCBS, contest. KCBS is the world’s largest organization of barbecue and grilling enthusiasts.
The overall professional team grand champion, winning a trophy and $2,000 prize, went to “Que’n, Stew’n and Brew’n”, a father-and-son team from Acworth, Ga.
Scott Smith and his 14-year-old son, Christopher, hauled their Southern Q Smoker and trailer into town last week as they found a parking spot next to other barbecue trailers and RVs preparing for competition along Riverside Drive. As Christopher dragged his grand championship trophy, which was almost as big as him, to his trailer, local residents rose from their porches to congratulate him and snap photos of the Smokin’ champions. Scott said while it is his first time to Smokin’ on the River, he’ll definitely come back.
“The people here are so friendly, even though we come here and park our trailers in front of their houses for several days,” Smith said. “In return, I try to support local business when we come into small cities like Jeffersonville, like eating locally and buying tools and equipment locally.”
Scott said the father-and-son duo, with the help of others throughout the school year, compete in about 17 KCBS competitions annually and their team Que’n, Stew’n and Brew’n is overall placed in the top 25 in the country out of 7,000 teams. While Scott shows his passion for barbecue through owning and building Southern Q Smokers, his son Christopher shows his passion for the pit through extracurricular activities.
“While other kids play baseball and basketball ... he likes to cook,” Scott Smith said.
Christopher said he attended the Young Chef’s Academy for three years and is now competing and winning at the junior level in barbecue competitions.
Scott and Christopher both agreed that their favorite pork treat to make is brisket. When asked what their secret ingredient is, Scott answered with a smile, “The smoker, of course.”
The overall grand champion winner and barbecue bragging rights for the backyard amateur division was awarded to the “Alpha Smoke” team. Other awards were given in the dessert and anything-but categories, with the Guinness cake topped with Bailey’s Irish Crème icing winning first place in the dessert category, and the “Top-Shelf Cooker” team winning first place for lamb ribs in the anything-but category.
The people’s choice award was given to “RIP” (Rest in Pork — Meat to Die For) team winning the tasting tent vote for the rib challenge. The five-friend team from Huntingburg, Ind., near Jasper, has been competing as a hobby for about four years. John Patton, one of the RIP teammates, said he had had no intention of entering into the people’s choice award contest.
“I kept saying, ‘I’m in no way doing the people’s choice,’” Patton said.
However, Patton said his teammates persuaded him to enter once they arrived, even though they were lacking water and electric at the time.
The tasting tent in Clucker’s parking lot offered tastings of the barbecue team’s ribs, as well as local brew tastings. Many Smokin’ attendees were from Louisville, like friends Tracey Saelen and Angela Trumbaturi, who also work in downtown Louisville.
“The ribs are so good, they just fall off the bone,” Saelen said. The two said this was their first time attending the event and the only complaint was that they wished the Jeffersonville side of the pedestrian bridge was complete so they could have walked there.
Blues music on the RiverStage and in the tasting tent, as well as a Little Pig Play area for children accompanied the two-day Smokin’ on the River festival.