BBQ Duel

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

The Link Centre will host its first-ever “Don’t Be Cruel BBQ Duel” Friday and Saturday at the Link Centre in Tupelo.
More than $16,000 in prize money will be awarded to professional and amateur teams, and the championship winner will compete in the Memphis Barbecue Network’s Invitational Championship.
This family-friendly barbecue competition and festival is free and open to the public.
“We’re excited to have 31 teams registered so far and I think we’re going to get even more,” said Bev Crossen, one of the organizers. Fifteen of the teams are championship teams and the other 16 are patio teams.
Teams and judges from Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and New Hampshire will be traveling to Tupelo to compete, including the 2010 Memphis Barbecue Network Team of the Year and seven-time Grand Championship Winner, the Yazoo’s Delta Q.
One amateur patio barbecue team that will be competing from Tupelo is Hog Jam, made up of Frank Hodges, Kevin Rose, Brian McGraw and Daniel Logan. McGraw won’t be cooking with his buddies this weekend, though, because he’s one of the organizers of the event.
“One of the things we want to get out about this is that you don’t have to be a professional patio team to come out and compete,” McGraw said. “At most of these events, some of the good ones, older ones, will even mentor you, tell you what you can do better. The advice they give you is invaluable.”
Hog Jam will be preparing both pork spare ribs and a Boston butt pork roast for the judges to sample.
“I think we have to prepare six servings for the judges, which is one rib each,” Hodges said. “So we’ll only turn in six ribs to be judged, but we’ll probably cook six slabs to make sure we have something good for them to taste.”
Rose said timing is everything.
“There’s a timer going,” he said. “If you walk in one second late with your plates, they won’t even let you in.”
Hodges explained that there’s a very small window in which to achieve the perfect rib.
“If you turn it in too early, it’s cold,” he said. “If you turn it in too late, you’re turned away. I guarantee you everyone that will be there can cook good barbecue. It’s just about getting it turned in at the right time. In past competitions, we’ve come in first and we’ve come in last and we’ve come in in the middle of the pack.”

Music, dancing and more
Friday’s events include Max Howell leading Live Sports Drive and free live music featuring Happy Goat Band and Bart Mason and an evening of children’s entertainment, including a karaoke contest, dance contest, and performances by Dem Outta St8 Boyz and Maraze.
On Saturday, Craig Horton will emcee an afternoon and evening of free live music, including Hannah Roye, and lead the awards ceremony.
Kids can play in bouncy castles, ride an extra-large slide or take a train ride, and face painting, balloon darts and basketball hoops are also available from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. There is a $5 admission charge for the children’s area.
If you want to skip all the music and activities and just want to eat barbecue, the People’s Choice Judging Tent will be open Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for folks to sample barbecue from different teams for $3.
There are still slots available for both amateur and professional teams. To enter your team, become a vendor or sponsor, volunteer or find more information about the weekend, visit or call (662) 372-2208 or (662) 690-4011. The deadline to enter is 5 p.m. Thursday.

Don’t Be Cruel BBQ Duel
– When: Friday and Saturday.

– Where: Link Centre on Main Street in Tupelo.

– What: Barbecue competition, arts and crafts, music, children’s activities, raffle tickets.

– Cost: Free to public, except for children’s area, which has a $5 charge.

– Deadline to enter: 5 p.m. Thursday

– More info: Call (662) 372-2208 or (662) 690-4011 or visit

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