** Warning some images in this story might offend non-meat eaters**
Cowboy hats, banjos, beards and BBQ’s took over the Bangalow showgrounds on the weekend, to showcase Australia’s finest BBQ skills in one of the country’s biggest BBQ cook-offs, the Bangalow BBQ and Bluegrass Festival.
This isn’t just any old festival, the Firebrand BBQ Competition is a massive competition, that sees BBQ teams coming from across the country to try their hand to win over $6000 in prize money, with the overall winning BBQ team also receiving an entry to one of the biggest annual international BBQ competitions held in Memphis Tennessee in May each year.
One of the more interesting entries this year, was the Morayfield High School Voodoo Dolls BBQ team, consisting of three hospitality students and their teachers from Queensland. They told us that their team is unique, being the only competitive BBQ high school team in the entire world. The Mayfield High initiative has been a highly successful one, including the team having been engaged for outside catering events, such as fundraisers for the Daniel Morecombe Foundation. This team is so serious about their BBQs that they have even managed to score some national and international sponsorship deals from salt and spice companies. This year they came in 5th out of 44 entries in the BBQ Beef section and are already making plans to beat this next year, when they will have an all-female team.
This year’s overall Grand Championship team was the Shank Brothers BBQ team from Brisbane, who describe themselves as bunch of passionate blokes, who love to cook low and slow over a few cold beers and watching them prepare their final tasting entries for the judges, that was exactly how they do it, with each one seeming to have their own role, one with paper towels, one with a brush to glaze their meats, another with tongs, slowly and carefully tending their BBQs.
The competition judges were the real winners though, with each of them paying to take part in the massive judging schedule and working their way through tasty entries from the 50 competitors, in four separate categories, chicken, pork. pork ribs and beef. That’s a lot of meat! The other winners of course were all the punters, with perfect weather and divine BBQ smells filling the air, as everyone worked their way around the festival, partaking on tasting plates from all of the various competition entries, going back again and again to try as many as they could and then handing in their own judging forms. Glad to say the entire day was a sell-out, with happy full bellies taking to the grass to enjoy the entertainment too.
Of course, it wasn’t all about BBQs, the weekend also showcased some seriously fine fiddling and duelling banjos, with MC Emmylou Amethyst (aka Ilona Harker) hilariously introducing a non-stop procession of bluegrass performers to the stage, which included the Pickers Competition. All in all this was a very family friendly event, and as so often happens at these sorts of family affairs, even the littlies found their way onto the stage for impromptu performances, with the most popular performer of the day turning out to be a little spiderman, whose high energy dance-moves had the crowd enthralled, and autograph hunters scrambling for his signature.
The annual Bangalow BBQ & Bluegrass Festival is a not-for-profit event, with all of the proceeds going towards supporting local arts and cultural initiatives. Make sure you put this must-do feel-good event in your calendar for next year.
Story: Nicqui Yazdi
Photos : Kirra Pendergast