By JB Clark
TUPELO – The sweet smell of hot pork filled the air in Tupelo’s Fairpark Saturday as spectators walked from tent to tent with barbecue on their minds – and the corners of their mouths.
The Don’t Be Cruel BBQ Duel just keeps getting better according to participants, attendees and organizers.
Scott Smith, whose team Que’n Stew’n and Brew’n is ranked third in the country, traveled to Mississippi instead of attending a competition in his home state of Georgia because he loves Tupelo.
“Believe it or not, I love having the hotel parking lot and great food and restaurants across the street I can walk to,” he said. “The people and hospitality here are second to nobody.”
Melanie Deas, executive director of the Link Centre, said she was happy to see a good number of nationally ranked teams alongside a large showing of local teams.
Local teams were well represented in the final standings with two teams, People’s Republic of Swina, of Tupelo, and Hotty Toddy BBQ Crew, of Marietta, finishing in the top 10.
Memphis residents Claudia and Oliver Ellison spent some time at the people’s choice tent early Saturday afternoon, sampling some of the pulled pork offerings and voting for their favorites. Claudia Ellison said they prefer to traveling to Tupelo over attending their local festival.
“What we like most about this festival is it’s not as congested, there’s no parking problem and it’s great,” she said. “We make a point to be here in Tupelo for this event.”
Oliver Ellison said another draw is how well organizers run the event.
Nat Grubbs said their team and competition space, where friends family and spectators gather to eat, drink and listen to live music, has grown each year as the festival continues to expand. Grubbs competes on the Star Boars competition team with cooks from Servpro and Romie’s Grocery.
“We had a great turnout last night,” he said. “We cooked 30 racks of ribs and 20 Boston butts for folks who came out.”
Michael Addison, of Up in Smoke, has attended the competition each of its four years and said it’s always a good time. This year their team, like the Star Boars, provided a dining area for people attending the festival and had live music Friday night.
“It’s just people having a good time together cooking barbecue,” he said. “The festival seems to get better and better every year. The Link Centre does a great job of it.”
Competitors submitted four different meats to be judged Saturday afternoon, starting with chicken at noon, followed closely by pork ribs, pork and beef brisket.