Local barbecue pit masters assembled for battle Saturday in downtown Hinesville at the 10th annual Blues & BBQ. When the smoke cleared — literally — LawDawg BBQ from Brunswick took home top prize for best barbecue chicken, best barbecue ribs and best barbecue pulled pork.
LawDawg also took first place in the judges’ choice category. Richmond Hill’s Smokin’ Pig BBQ took first place in the people’s choice category.
Second place for chicken was Coaches BBQ; for ribs, it was Sho Nuff Smokin Good BBQ; and for pulled pork, it was Do Right Seafood. Second place in People’s Choice was a tie, Coaches BBQ and Mofo’s BBQ.
According to the eatery’s website, www.lawdawgbbq.com, LawDawg got its name because of the founders’ love for barbecue, law enforcement and the Georgia Bulldogs. The Lawdawgs, Kevin and Kerry Parks, said they are members of the National Barbecue Association, Georgia Barbecue Association, Florida Panhandle Barbecue Society and Kansas City Barbecue Society.
“My husband is a retired police officer from Fort Valley, Ga.,” said Kerry, explaining their support for law enforcement. “We’ve been competing in barbecue competitions for six years. This was the third year we were at Blues & BBQ. Last year, we took first place in the (pulled) pork category.”
One of this year’s judges, City Manager Billy Edwards, said judging a barbecue competition is not as easy as some folks might think. It’s not just a matter of sinking your teeth into a smoky chicken thigh dripping with savory sauce or taking a bite from a well-smoked rib caked with the perfect combination of seasonings.
“I had a blast — don’t get me wrong,” Edwards said. “It was all wonderful barbecue. It was a great event in downtown Hinesville, and those folks who missed it missed a really good time. But I ate so much barbecue, I don’t even want to think about barbecue right now.”
Edwards noted each judge had to take test bites of each of 12 entries for chicken, ribs and pulled pork. He said 36 bites of barbecue is a lot of barbecue. He said he’s always attended the event but admitted this was the first time he’d served as a judge. When asked if he’d do it again, Edwards grinned and said, “You dadgum right!”
Leah Poole, CEO of the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau and chairwoman of the Hinesville Area Arts Council, was the only female judge sampling plate after plate of barbecue.
“I think I’m the only female with the capability to hold that much barbecue at one time,” joked Poole, who added that she considered it part of her job with the HAAC, which sponsored the event. “All the barbecue was very good. I think the turnout was higher this year. Even though it started raining — just like it did last year — most people stuck it out.”
She said other barbecue judges who “suffered” with eating so much pork and chicken at one time were Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield Garrison Commander Col. Kevin Gregory, Steven McCain, Matt Cardella and Billy Joe Nelson.
Poole pointed out they had encouraged many of the competitors and other food vendors to come early and sell meals to hungry patrons who showed up early for the event. Barbecue, seafood and funnel cakes were among the fare available from noon-2 p.m., she said.
In addition to the barbecue competition, there was a sweet-tea contest. Poole said the winners were Terry Willet and her son, Ryan. Terry is the city clerk for Flemington.
Several residents showed off their artistic talents with sidewalk art. Adam Chandler and his wife, Sue Ellen, worked hard on a depiction of the earth as viewed from outer space. Sgt. Joshua Laidacker worked on perfecting a large gold fish while his wife, Abbie, and their 9-month-old son, Noah, looked on. Abbie said under normal circumstances, Noah would not sit still or quietly, but seemed content to sit and watch Daddy.
In the background, along with all the delicious barbecue and demonstrations of artistic talent, music filled the air as thick as — if not thicker than — the smoke. Area bands like Soul Gravy from St. Simons Island, 3rd Class Citizens from Hinesville and Swamp Cabbage from Jacksonville performed
Hinesville Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Vicki Davis said this year’s event was a success, noting that with each year, there is more participation and attendance.