On March 7th we caught the 6th annual Smokin’ on the Square BBQ Cook-off Festival held at Pensacola’s Seville Square park in Pensacola’s Historic District.
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The main event is a Kansas City Barbeque Society National BBQ Cook Teams Contest, part of a series of BBQ cookoff contests held throughout the country to determine the Grand Champion. The KCBS series is sort of like the FedEx Cup in golf where points are earned in each contest based on where you finish, first place on down. Points accumulate during the entire season and the team with the highest # of points becomes the Grand Champion. The society boasts over 19,000 members world-wide. Thousands of professional BBQ teams compete in this series so only a fraction of that were present at the Pensacola event, which was billed as the Florida State Championship. KCBS supplies certified judges who taste and rate every submission, converting the ratings to an overall score. Highest score wins, next highest is second place, and so on. Iowa’s Smokey D’s BBQ, out of Des Moines, Iowa took top honors. Currently they are sitting in fourth place (out 1145 competitors) in the Sam’s Club National BBQ competition.
In addition to the pros cooking, there is also sort of a semi-pro or amateur division for Backyard BBQ chefs. Not all in this division are really amateurs as some of them do own BBQ restaurants but are not on the KCBS circuit. The Backyard chefs are graded on the same criteria as the pros. This year’s winner was Slade BBQ of Searcy, Arkansas.
Backyard Chefs also compete in a charity fund-raising competition offering small samples of their BBQ for a dollar charity contribution. The largest fundraiser is then crowned “Taste for Tips” champion. This year’s winner was Who Dat Smokin’.
There are also several regular food vendors offering up a variety of food items, in addition to BBQ specialties. Jo and I had some excellent pork ribs from Sonny’s BBQ, who is a co-sponsor of the event. Lucky for us, the Pensacola Bay Brewery is located right next door to Seville Park, so we took our sandwiches to the brewery’s outdoor patio and had their signature Porter to go along with our meal. Great ambience, enjoying a good beer, superb BBQ, and listening to musical entertainment coming from the park’s gazebo. BTW Pensacola Brewery has no food service, just a small tap room with about eight to ten stools and a fairly large outdoor deck. Nice variety of beer though and some of their brews are available on tap at some Pensacola dining establishments. You can take home their beer in gallon or 32 ounce growlers.
Later we discovered we left the cook-off too early, because later in the afternoon, the main music headliner was Chloe Channell, a twelve year old country music entertainer who was a quarter finalist in the 2013 America’s Got Talent TV show. I remember her from the TV show. Would have loved to see her live. http://www.chloechannell.com/
In addition to the food and entertainment, there were a smattering of arts and crafts vendors displaying their wares and art for sale. And another contest, that also has a “pro” and “amateur” event, is the “Smokin’ Cornhole” Tournament. Cornhole is sort of like a bean-bag toss game, with points scored similar to horseshoes. The master division teams were actually competing in the Gulf Coast Cornhole Series.
Lots of fun; hope to be back there again next year (2016) for the 7th Annual “Smokin in the Square” held again at Seville Square only about a week later on March 18th- 19th.
Some other major Pensacola Festivals you might enjoy: Mardi-Gras in February, Beulah Sausage Festival in March, Pensacola JazzFest in April, and the Pensacola Crawfish Festival in April or early May. See more listings of popular Pensacola events here.
Lotta Bull BBQ
Mike and Debbie Davis
Finished #17 overall at the 2015 Pensacola Championship, but came in #2 for their ribs. Mike and Debbie were the Jack Daniels World Champion in 2010.