This time next week, barbecue fanatics will be flocking to Frisco, transforming Main Street into a full-blown carnival. Locals and visitors alike will smell the wood smoke and tuck in for the Colorado BBQ Challenge from June 13-15.
“It really gives you that backyard barbecue feeling,” said Suzanne Lifgren, Frisco’s marketing director. “You have great food as a backdrop, the kids are running around, and you are listening to music and catching up with friends in the sunshine.”
The Main Street festival stretches from Madison to Fifth avenues. The event will feature about 70 competing barbecue masters and more than 20 vendors serving goodies like ice cream, corn on the cob, funnel cake and cheese steaks. Seven live bands will perform throughout the weekend on a main stage, starting with a kick-off concert on Thursday.
“We’ve worked hard over the years to add features to the barbecue to make it more than just a place to stop for lunch,” Lifgren said. “You can make barbecue into a vacation.”
In past years, event representatives have seen 30,000 to 35,000 visitors come to town. This year, town officials hope to up the ante and attract 40,000 people to Frisco.
Those pit hounds can rest assured that the Colorado BBQ Challenge is a Kansas City Barbecue Society-regulated event.
“You have to win a state competition like the one in Frisco to get invited to the big competitions,” Lifgren said.
Barbecue representatives are flown in from around the nation to make sure competitors abide by strict standards regarding ingredients and cooking techniques. Most competitors set up on Thursday and fire up their grills early on Friday. Competition begins Friday night and Saturday. Barbecue chefs come from all backgrounds, from an IRS tax agent to a policeman and Xerox copier salesman, Lifgren said.
Barbecue is more than a hobby for these skillful chefs.
“They take it very seriously,” Lifgren said. “They stay up basting, injecting and adjusting temperatures at 2 a.m.”
Many competitors have invested in high-end equipment and will drive long distances to compete in the event, Lifgren said. It isn’t uncommon for competitors to cook six to eight slabs of ribs to get six perfect center cuts to present to the judges, she said. At the end of the competition, about $17,000 in prizes will be presented at an awards ceremony on Sunday.
Also popular at the Colorado BBQ Challenge are the cooking demonstrations in which chefs show off their skills in a full kitchen equipped with cameras and microphones. Spectators can see into pots and pans and watch the culinary masters’ every move.
Celebrity chef Brian Malarky, from ABC-TV’s “The Taste” and a former contestant on Bravo’s “Top Chef” cooking competition, will showcase a recipe from his Gabardine restaurant featuring grilled pork chops with a peach and Breckenridge Distillery whiskey sauce with watermelon salad.
“We really love his performance. He’s really good at adding simple tips and tricks where the at-home foodie can improve their cooking,” Lifgren said.
The event is free. On Friday and Saturday, barbecue challenge visitors can exchange their money for “Hog Back” tickets to buy food and beverages. Money raised at the event will go to local nonprofits. Off-site parking and shuttles will be available at Summit Middle School.
The full scoop on the Colorado BBQ Challenge can be found in the Summit Daily’s upcoming Weekender edition, available June 14.