Barbecue festival may draw 4,000

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 19, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Chic Suggs has never competed in a barbecue cook-off, but that won’t stop the owner of Lee’s Sandwich Shop in Kannapolis from pitting his barbecue, brisket and secret sauce against 48 teams from six states this weekend during the Biker, Blues & BBQ Rally, Salisbury’s first competition sanctioned by the Kansas City BBQ Society.
The three-day event at Tilley Harley-Davidson kicks off at 6 p.m. Thursday and runs through Saturday afternoon, when judges will announce their top picks and award more than $12,000 in prize money.
All musical entertainment is free, and coordinator Gary Moss said he expects up to 4,000 people to attend the festival.
While the rally offers bands, DJs, 42 vendors and even hot-air balloon rides, the event will center on the cook-off, where teams compete for the titles of best barbecue, chicken, brisket and ribs and overall grand champion.
The line-up includes well-known pitmasters like George “Tuffy” Stone of TLC’s “BBQ PitMaster” and CBS’ Ultimate BBQ Challenge, as well as Big Mo from Aho, who competed in the 2009 Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue and recently took first places in chicken and brisket at the Mountain High BBQ & Music Festival in Franklin.
Suggs isn’t intimidated by his competition.
“I’m planning on winning this thing, and then go on and do more,” Suggs said. “I love to cook. That’s why I run a restaurant.”
Now 49, Suggs started cooking in 1977 when he was 14 and his parents, George and Barbara Suggs, bought Lee’s from Lee Griffin.
Many of the recipes Suggs uses in the small restaurant at 902 Central Drive were handed down from original owner Joe Dwiggins, who started the business in 1950 as Joel’s Sandwich Shop.
Suggs will compete with nephews Jacob Sherrill and Mark Tucker. Friend Anthony Ballard will man the fire, using only hickory, never oak.
Team Redneck Bar-B-Que ”N” will fire up their smoker Friday afternoon and cook the meat for at least 14 hours.
“We really, really slow cook it at real low temps,” Suggs said. “The only thing I’m worried about is, can we beat the clock.”
Plates are due to judges between noon and 1:30 p.m. Saturday, and winners will be announced at 4 p.m.
If you’re trying to spot Suggs and Redneck Bar-B-Que ”N” this weekend, look for a banner featuring an old hillbilly holding a pig. The team will bring in two specialists to cook the ribs, the only category Suggs said he hasn’t mastered.
“We’ve been doing turkeys and shoulders for the holidays for about 10 years and selling them at the restaurant,” he said. “Everybody who eats them rants and raves, and we’ve always talked about getting into competition.
Moss, the event coordinator, said everyone, not just people who ride motorcycles, will enjoy the rally.
“Everything is free and open to the public. Bring chairs and enjoy the entertainment,” he said. “Come out and talk to the teams and look at those high-dollar cookers they’ve got.”
Barbecue connoisseurs can buy a $15 ticket to judge the People’s Choice Award on Saturday, marking ballots to bestow $100 from Old Stone Winery and a trophy on the lucky winner.
Prize money for the sanctioned cook-off runs to four figures, with $3,500 going to the grand champion, $1,500 for the reserve grand champion and cash prizes down to 20th place.
Vendors from Florida to Maryland will offer everything from motorcycle gear to sunglasses to feathers for hair, Moss said.
“They were hand-selected,” he said. “No two will sell the same things.”
After expenses are covered, all money raised by a poker run, bike show, hot-air balloon rides and raffles will go to charity.
Three food vendors for the rally are TGIFriday’s, East Coast Wings and Country Boys Barbeque of Portsmouth, Va.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.
Want to go?
What: Biker, Blues & BBQ Rally, sanctioned by the Kansas City BBQ Society and proclaimed by Gov. Bev Perdue as a State Barbecue Championship
When: Thursday-Saturday.
Where: Tilley Harley-Davidson, 653 Bendix Drive. Parking next door.
Why: To bring sanctioned barbecue competition to Salisbury and raise money for charity.
Charities: Godstock, Salisbury-Rowan Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 87, Folds of Honor Foundation
Event opens at 6 p.m. 
Vendors and competitors checking in
Free entertainment 6-11 p.m. with D.B. Bryant and Preacher Stone sponsored by Uncle Buck’s 
Food and drink for sale
Tethered hot air balloon rides $12, weather permitting, 
Event opens at 10 a.m.
All teams and vendors set up by 1 p.m. 
10 a.m.-6 p.m. DJ?Fast Freddy Thompson 
6-10:30 p.m. Big Ron Hunter of Winston-Salem, Jill Dineen Band of Charlotte
Private reception for 65 judges of Kansas City BBQ Society
Food and drink for sale
Tethered hot air balloon rides $12, weather permitting, 
Free kids inflatables 
Event opens at 9 a.m.
Retired NASCAR legend Harry Gant appearing as grand marshall all day 
Free kids inflatables 
9 a.m. Poker run for charity
Noon Junior’s 12th Annual Bike Show for charity
1:45 p.m. People’s Choice Award sponsored by Old Stone Winery 
3:45 p.m. Presentation of colors and 21-gun salute by Rowan County Veterans Honor Guard 
4 p.m. All winners announced
5 p.m. Event closes