Summertime is barbecue time, and this year Mainers have a record four barbecue competitions to look forward to – three of them sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society.

Teams from Maine and the rest of the country will be competing for thousands of dollars in cash prizes and the right to enter one of the national competitions as a Maine state barbecue champion.

Barbecue is getting hotter every day, but is just now starting to catch on in Maine. The Kansas City Barbecue Society, the largest organization of its kind, saw a 22 percent increase in membership last year.

For Mainers, these local festivals are an opportunity to taste what all the fuss is about, and to learn from some of the masters who will be on hand doing cooking demonstrations.

DennyMike Sherman, whose barbecue sauces and rubs have won national competitions and who will be participating in all the Maine festivals this summer, is thrilled that his fellow Mainers are beginning to take barbecue seriously. Three sanctioned competitions in one summer sets a new bar, he said.

“I think it’s huge,” Sherman said. “Finally, the culinary transformation is taking place. Up here, it was all Yankee pot roast or New England boiled dinner or something like that. You never talked about barbecue.

“(The competitions) give us an opportunity to bring people into it and show off a little bit. Really, it’s all about the food and the social aspects of barbecue.”

The fun starts this Saturday with a small barbecue competition during the Moose Lottery at Cabela’s in Scarborough. (I’ll be a judge at that competition.) The following week, there will be a barbecue contest at the ballpark in Old Orchard Beach. In July, there will be a huge new barbecue competition in western Maine, at the Fryeburg Fairgrounds. And in August, the Mainely Grillin’ & Chillin’ Country BBQ State Competition returns to Eliot.

Perhaps the most anticipated event is the new barbecue festival in western Maine, which will host 35 to 50 barbecue teams and offer prizes totaling more than $12,500. The event was originally supposed to be a small barbecue in the park at Moose Pond organized by the Denmark Lions Club. When one potential competitor said he would come if it were held at the Fryeburg Fairgrounds, the planning took off, and clubs from Fryeburg, Bridgton, Harrison, Brownfield, Naples, Massabesic, Falmouth and Freeport got involved.

The organizers attended a dozen different barbecue events up and down the east coast to see how it’s done, and they took a class to become certified barbecue judges. Then they volunteered at the national championship in Kansas City.

Now they’re bringing everything they learned back to Maine.

“This is going to be a pretty big thing,” said Bill Sanborn, one of the organizers of the festival. “We’ve got the whole Fryeburg Fairground. We’ve got music on two stages. We have a mechanical bull, and knife and ax throwing. We’re going to have four pavilions filled with exhibitors.”

Toss in a classic car show, a motorcycle show and a cooking class with the “Baron of Barbecue,” Paul Kirk, and you have a real barbecue festival.

 

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter at: Twitter.com/MeredithGoad