Food & Drink

Personal Essay: A Day at The Jack

Jack Daniel Primo Grills

By Tabitha Evans Moore | Editor & Publisher

It’s early … before 8 a.m. as I walk through soggy Wiseman Park on the day of the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue. It’s not my first journalistic rodeo in Lynchburg. I know it’s good to get out here early to chat with teams. It’s casual and folks are in a good mood. That mood will change when it’s turn in time. Teams get tense and less chatty. And who can blame them … there’s a lot on the line.

Tents, RVs, and campers cover nearly every possible inch of Wiseman Park. In the blank spaces sits standing water and mud. But this isn’t unusual for the fourth Saturday in October. Veteran cookers like the Swine Fellows from Canada are used to it. They’ve competed for 23 straight years and a little mud doesn’t faze them.

Asher and Ezra Barnett

Up on the Lynchburg Square, the Jack Dash runners are beginning to cross the finish line. Asher and Ezra Barnett, of Lynchburg, stand with cardboard signs that say, “Run, Mama Run.” She did. Michelle snagged second place overall in the female division and 7th overall for both men and women.

The crowds swells around noon. The weather kept some folks away but not The Jack Daniel Squires. Master Distiller Jeff Arnett says the Squire’s Tent near the distillery is maxed out. You can’t rain on their parade.

I don’t usually partake very much during the event. If I ate all the barbecue and drank all the whiskey I was offered during the Barbecue I’d be …. well let’s just say, fat and happy. But I couldn’t pass up a boozy popsicle from Lynchburg Small Batch. Owners Michelle and Jerrod Parkin recommend the Apple Pie and wow, it’s delicious.

As judging comes to a close, I head into the main tent and run into Metro Mayor Bonnie Lewis. She judged this year and sneaks me a bite of one of the desserts. It’s some cheesecake made with a Jack Daniel sauce and it’s … to … die … for. I gotta figure a way into to this dessert judging gig.

Beside her is Barrelhouse BBQ’s Chuck Baker who judged for the first time this year.

“Did you have fun?” I ask.

“So much fun … what a great experience.”

The Black Label Smokers, from Lynchburg

It’s time for some awards, so I head to the stage in the back for the Shade Tree Division winners. Lynchburg’s own Black Label Smokers placed fifth in ribs, seventh in pork, and seventh overall. You couldn’t wipe the grin off their faces afterwards. They also had the loudest cheering section … go figure.

After a small break, it’s time to announce the World Championship winners. And then, the sky opens up in what my grandmother would have called a gully washer. Rain pours from the sky for a solid 30 minutes and the cloud look ominous. It’s at this point that I’m thankful for the Distillery’s fancy event tent with it’s waterproof floor. Without it, it would be a muddy, hot mess.

“Each one of these tiles has to be individually pressure-washed after the event. Can you imagine that job,” jokes Steve May, Jack Daniel’s Homeplace Director.

Competition barbecue folks are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Their enthusiasm and lust for life is contagious. The awards ceremony is fun to watch. These teams work hard and travel from all over the world to be with us for the Barbecue. It’s a big deal.

The Distillery increased the prize money this year. The Grand Champion will take home a $25,000 check and the Reserve Grand Champion wins $10,000. And since both almost certainly won or placed in a previous category to gain the score necessary to win it all, they’re likely leaving Lynchburg with much more.

It’s time and everyone on the stage beams from ear to ear. Event Director Debbie Neal Christian and her sister, Vicki Neal Baucum, who earlier won Volunteer of the Year for being her sister’s right hand woman, exchange knowing looks. The event’s MC, Chip Chapman, draws out the suspense as long as possible. And the winner is … Clark Crew BBQ from Yukon, Oklahoma.

It’s was their fifth year to compete in The Jack. They earned 37th in chicken (171.977 points), 26th in ribs (173.73 points), 2nd in pork (179.44 points), and 3rd in brisket (with a perfect 180 score) to earn a Grand Champion score of 704.1544.

The Reserve Grand Champion, Shake ‘n Bake BBQ (703.4056 points), and third place, Redneck Scientific (700.5256 points), all scored over 700 points this year. It was very close.

When asked what it was like to take home The Jack, they told The Lynchburg Times it was like a dream come true.

“This was our fifth year in a row with seven wins to auto in. The Jack Daniels family of volunteers always do such a great job. It’s just a huge honor to be there, much less to win it,” they said.

My only regret of the day is I didn’t get to pet their dog. Now, I’ve got to go jog some of this barbecue off, y’all. Until next year … •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently owned and operated newspaper that publishes new stories every morning. Covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

Leave a Reply