Chamber and Development Corp of Crawford County
Chamber & Development Council of Crawford County | 18 South Main Street | Denison, Iowa51442
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A thirsty and hungry BBQ Fest Crowd 09/27/2019

September 27th, 2019

The crowd at this year’s Tri City BBQ Fest may have been larger than those at the five previous festivals.

Or they may have been a thirstier or hungrier, purchased more merchandise or their kids played more games than ever before.

Either way, the $1 BBQ Bucks tickets sold quicker and the original order of 21-and-over wristbands were all used before the festival ended.

A normal order of BBQ Bucks tickets is 100,000. They had all been sold by mid-day on Saturday, said Evan Blakley, the executive director of the Chamber & Development Council (CDC) of Crawford County. The CDC is in charge of the annual event.

“The standard order usually lasts longer,” Blakley said.

To remedy the situation, the festival began selling BBQ Bucks tickets left over from previous years. A different colored ticket is used each year.

A normal order of beer garden wrist bands is 5,000. Blakley said those ran out on Saturday and they had to get more.

He added that potentially, 7,000 beer drinkers were banded at this year’s festival.

Some people may have been banded twice - once on Friday and once on Saturday.

Other evidence showed that the attendance was greater or those that attended were thirstier – a lot thirstier.

Beer: Festival organizers had to reorder beer on Saturday morning, something they’ve never had to do before.

Soda: “We had to reorder soda three or four times. We’ve never had to do that before, as far as I know,” Blakley said. “It was warm, but we’ve had warm weather for festivals in the past. I think we just had higher attendance.

“Friday was one of the largest Fridays ever, based on appearance and the amount of product we went through,” he added.

Word of mouth, fine-tuning advertising methods and digital marketing are among the reasons Blakley gave for the greater attendance at the Tri City BBQ Fest.

He added that the CDC had 10,000 festival brochures printed and had volunteers that distributed them in Iowa and in neighboring states as they traveled.

“I think people are talking about the festival more, anticipating it and sharing with friends more and more each year,” Blakley continued.

Some of that word of mouth is coming from competitors in the Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned contest, based on comments in their Facebook posts.

“It’s known as a very fun competition,” Blakley said. “It’s not the biggest by any means, but we provide so much for them and their families while they are here. Residents are so hospitable and go out of their way to make people feel welcomed.”

This year’s sanctioned competition featured a number of first-time teams to the festival. Blakley said the first-timers are following a trend by saying that they will return the following year.

Another area that sold out quickly was the people’s choice sampling for Friday’s amateur barbecue competition.

Blakley said a few wristbands for this event were sold later and when those people arrived, the food had been depleted.

“We made sure we got them refunded,” he said.

The scheduled midnight closing of the festival was moved up one-half hour because of an approaching storm. The Smoky Karaoke contest began at 10:30 instead of at 11 p.m. That contest was completed by 11:30 p.m., before the storm hit.

At about 11 p.m. on Saturday, Blakley took a walk through the food vendors’ area along Broadway to check things out.

“Most of the food vendors were totally sold out by 10 p.m. I saw only two vendors with any remaining food,” he said. “That’s perfect timing.”

Blair Weigum was happy with the number of teams that entered the Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned competition this year.

Thirty-three professional teams fired up their smokers, six more than in 2018.

This is the third competition for which Weigum, tourism coordinator for the CDC, has been the competition manager.

“I was excited to have more teams this year,” she said. “I feel like I’ve grown into this role and it’s something I truly love.

“I was excited to have more teams this year,” she said. “I feel like I’ve grown into this role and it’s something I truly love.

“We have such a great group of teams. I couldn’t be happier about it. It’s a great camaraderie and I love being a part of it,” she added.

1,200 ribs in 15 minutes

The Norelius and Nelson People’s Choice Award also experienced a rush of activity when the line for ribs opened up at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

 

About 1, 200 ribs, selling for $1 each, were handed out in around 15 minutes. All that was left were just a few scraps, and people even wanted those.

“I looked at the clock when we started, and it was just a little more than 15 minutes,” said Kris Rowedder, with the Norelius and Nelson law firm.

She has organized the event for each of its six years.

At 1:35 p.m. the line for the ribs was already down the block.

Rowedder said after cleaning up the people’s choice area, the tickets were counted.

“We had just shy of 1,200,” she said.

Rowedder recalled another year when they were close to selling all the ribs.

The planning and organization of the contest has been tweaked each year so it runs like clockwork – this year on a 15-minute timer.

“We had two lines, just eight different competitors, we had the ribs marked with toothpicks (to identify the competitor by number), said Roweder. “We had to turn people away. We didn’t have enough ribs.”

She said if more barbecue teams choose to enter the Norelius and Nelson People’s Choice Contest next year, there will be more ribs.

Smithfield Foods donates the ribs for the people’s choice contest, and Norelius and Nelson pays a fee to sponsor the contest.

“Usually we’re there for half an hour to 40 minutes,” Rowedder said. “This year we had volunteers who said they’d never handed out plates and ribs so fast in my life.

“We have a good group of volunteers.”

It takes a good bit of work ahead of time to make the contest run smoothly, not the least of which is the tagging of all the toothpicks with the numbers assigned to the competitors.

Rowedder said that task alone probably takes more time than to hand out the ribs to competitors, to barbecue, set up the contest area, serve the ribs and clean up afterwards.

 
 




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