Although the Delaware State Fair's inaugural Triple Threat Barbeque Festival hasn't yet launched, the event has still managed to make history.
Although the Delaware State Fair’s inaugural Triple Threat Barbeque Festival hasn’t yet launched, the event has still managed to make history.
The festival has already been recognized as the largest first-time event sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society. That’s high praise considering the KCBS is billed as the world’s largest organization of barbecue and grilling enthusiasts, boasting more than 15,000 members worldwide.
What makes the festival a triple threat, you ask? Attendees will get lots of barbecue, beer and music.
Held in Harrington on the Delaware State Fairgrounds from Friday, April 11 through Saturday, April 12, the Triple Threat festival has drawn interest from KCBS members from throughout the country as the winning team will be named the grand champion and will become eligible to compete in the American Royal Invitational in Kansas in October.
To get an understanding of how major the American Royal is, the barbecue community commonly refers to it as the World Series of barbecue.
Competition for the American Royal is stiff, so the 100-plus professional cooking teams competing in the Triple Threat festival will need to bring their A-games to the grill.
Competitors will duke it out in the four meat categories of beef brisket, pork ribs, chicken and Pork on April 12. Teams will be judged by approximately 150 professional judges who’ll evaluate meats based on variables such as presentation, tenderness and flavor.
In addition to being invited to the American Royal, the grand champion will earn $2,500.
Rick Hamilton, head chef of Hambones by the Fire in Virginia, says winning the competition has more to do with creating a quality fire in your grill than smothering meats in the finest rubs and spices. Beyond popular belief, Hamilton – whose resume includes winning the West Virginia State Championship in 2009 and 2010, and the Louisiana State Championship in 2012 – said that great fires are ones that don’t produce heavy gray smoke. Instead, healthy flames have a blue glow to them.
“It comes down to details of temperature, time, [and questions like,] did I put the right amount of the right rubs on or did I put the right amount of fuel on the fire?,” Hamilton explained. “All of these little details add up and determine if you win or don’t win.”
Mike Richter, who’s the head chef for Chix Swine and Bovine, pointed out that cooking with consistency will improve a team’s chances of winning.
“We try to be consistent with our texture and tenderness of our product,” said Richter, of Maryland, who’s won a total of 16 state championships. “We try not to be too bold or too mild with our flavors. And we try to make it look as good as we possibly can.”
Aside from the main competition on Saturday, Delaware State Fair Assistant General Manager Danny Aguilar says he’s most proud about the festival’s People’s Choice Barbecue, which will allow fairgoers to sample wings from professional teams on April 11 then vote for the first People’s Choice Chicken Wing Champion. That same night guests will also be able to taste and vote on their favorite other barbeque items from the from pro chefs Then on April 12, fairgoers will be able to taste chefs’ pulled pork dishes to vote for the first People’s Choice Pulled Pork Champion.
The tastings will cost fairgoers $5 which will include five tickets (a ticket per piece of chicken or pork).
Offering tastings to fairgoers at a KCBS-sanctioned barbecue competition is pretty rare because teams have a limited time to prepare their food, and many don’t have the time to make extra eats for the public.
"We’re particularly proud of being able to offer the People’s Choice,” Aguilar said. "A lot of competitions we’ve attended are not able to do that because of the time constraints.”
The Triple Threat is every bit a competition as it is a good time for visitors, since it also features carnival rides, corn hole, beer, wine, live music.
As for why State Fair organizers decided to host its inaugural Triple Threat Festival, Aguilar said it seemed like a perfect fit. And if all goes well, there’s a chance it might return in 2015.
"We’re always looking for ways to showcase our facilities. We have several organizations that come and rent our Fairgrounds,” he said. "We’ve had weddings [and] sweet 16s.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT Triple Threat Barbeque Festival
WHEN 4 to 10 p.m., Friday, April 11; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, April 12
WHERE Delaware State Fair's Fairgrounds, 18500 S. Dupont Highway, Harrington
COST $5 for ages 13 or older; free for ages 12 or younger
INFO Visit triplethreatbbq.net or call (888) 887-5687 ext. 5246