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Jack Daniel's 2008 Invitational
World Championship

Jack Daniel's Barrel Head
Click to enlarge

46th of 78

Chicken Ribs Pork Brisket
21th 55th 41st 38th


Click BBQ Gallery for pictures from The 2008 Jack.

September 4th was our lucky day. That's the day our bung was pulled! OK, sounds a little dirty - unfortunately, it's not. A bung is a wooden stopper used to cork a barrel. Each winner of a state championship is assigned a bung and one bung is pulled for each state. Virginia had three BBQ competitions declared State Championships. (It takes a proclamation from the Governor’s office.) The Jack is the “bomb diggity”, the Super Bowl of BBQ. It’s the most prestigious BBQ Competition in the world. And we were honored to represent Virginia in Lynchburg, TN. We had bung number 137.

They pulled our bung!

We left after work on Wednesday with the goal of driving as many of the 670 or so miles as comfortable, get a good night’s sleep and continue the trek on Thursday. About 10:30 we decided to gas up and pull into a Days Inn. Most hotels are just off the highway. This one had us following signs, making turns and leading us off the beaten path. When we finally did get to the hotel we both looked at the nearly empty lot then each other. It just felt weird. WTF! We climbed out of the car and headed to the office to check in.

Naturally, the lobby was locked but the young attendant ushered us in. I immediately felt redeemed for all my apprehension. The guy checking us in bore an eerie resemblance to a young Anthony Perkins. I checked the name of the hotel again. Just to assure myself this wasn’t the Bate’s Motel. The evening was uneventful. We slept well and set off again in the morning.

Not so scary in the sunlight

We continued on singing BBQ songs and admiring the scenery. This part of the country is beautiful this time of year. We are always on the look out for other BBQr’s on the way to competitions. We seldom see any. We were a little ways into Tennessee when nature called and we pulled into a rest stop. A man at one of the picnic tables looked familiar and so did a car towing a pop-up. I was in to much of a hurry to investigate further. On the way back my suspisions were confirmed. It was Brett from Stoddard and Brown along with his daughter. After some hellos and how ya do’s we were all back on the road.

Thursday afternoon we finally arrived at the Jack. Lynchburg is a tiny little town and naturally we missed our turn to get us into the park. We pulled into a parking lot to turn around just as someone walked out of the store in a Fire Dept. T-shirt. We asked for directions and ended up getting an escort. Gotta love small towns!

We pulled in and waited to be shown to our site. While waiting I had to jump out of the car and look around. This was THE JACK! Soon Mark arrived to show us to our site. We were right between Divine Smoke from South Carolina and IQUE from Massachusetts. We were on the out side of an oval track. On the inside were the International teams. Across from us were teams from Estonia and Poland.

As we were setting up and getting to know our neighbors a rep from the Jack stopped by. We had been selected! Our mission, if we chose to accept it, was to compete in the “I know Jack About Grilling” competition Friday. This was a small separate contest. They select two international teams and five US teams for an Iron Chef type competition. This was the Jack. We may never have this opportunity again. Let’s do it!!

Thursday night was pretty uneventful. We set up, had a few beers, ate our usual pre-comp meal – KFC Chicken and headed for bed. We were expecting some rain but no real wind. Wouldn’t ya know it. I neglected to anchor our canopies and we did get a little wind. We were laying in our cots when the wind picked up.

It was like slow motion. First the walls began to shimmy, then the sounds grew louder. Then ever so slowly the whole canopy began to levitate. We jumped out of our cots to try to coax our shelter back in place. Not happinin’. It lifted up and gently rolled over the IQUE camp to settle upside down about 15 feet from where we wanted it.

BBQr’s being BBQr’s we had an offer to help from 4 guys who appeared out of no where. Possessing testosterone producing glands, I declined any help. Christy – thinking with her brain – over ruled me and in no time our canopy was back in place and this time secured with stakes all around.

Morning comes early at these things and we had things to do. Besides a 9:30 meeting for the grilling thing we needed to pick up the shirts and things we had pre ordered and get a barrel head to have signed. And it was pouring! We were lucky. The three teams to our right were fighting stay above water. Stoddard & Brown and I Smell Smoke both dug trenches to drain the water away. IQUE’s trench couldn’t keep up with the flow. Eventually, they were moved to higher ground. We were wet but didn't have the standing water our nieghbors did.

I pulled on my trusty red crocs and rain coat and headed up the hill to the shops. I priced barrel heads and lazy susans then went next door to get the Jack BBQ souvenirs we had ordered. On the way back I ran into Mike from Chix, Swine & Bovine. Seems they were in the I Know Jack About Grilling Competition too. Cool. Nice to have friends around.

The meeting went OK. The rules were laid down and the secret ingredients were announced. Ground beef & shrimps. We were also given a bunch of other stuff like sugar and potatoes and cheese and veggies. We all left to prepare – we were due back in an hour & 45 min.

We hurriedly planned our attack. We needed an entree, a side and an appetizer. One of the judging categories was the use of “the local product”. Our plan: Meatballs browned in bacon grease and simmered in crushed tomatoes & beef stock. These were topped with a sauce made from reduced Jack Daniel’s, Beef Stock, Balsamic vinegar, butter and grilled onions. Our side was mashed potatoes with bleu cheese topped with crumbled bacon and grilled asparagus and for the appetizer; fried coconut pecan shrimps with an apricot marmalade, Jack Daniel’s and Boneyard Brew hot sauce dipping sauce.

We did get every thing done in time. The potatoes had a way to much bleu cheese and the batter didn't stick to the shrimp the way it should have - oh well.

After the grilling it was on to the cooks meeting. Pretty uneventfull - we all know the KCBS rules. Since it's The Jack there are a couple differences. Most notably you need to turn in both white and dark meat in the chicken catagory. Also you need 7 identifyable pieces instead of the normal 6. After all Jack Daniel's is Old No. 7.

After the meeting it was catch-up time. Needed to trim and prep the big meats, get the smokers ready set-up the wash station - all the stuff we would have done if it wasn't for the I Know Jack Grilling thingie!

I love a parade

But wait! It's parade time! Never having been in a parade, I had to go. It's a lot different then just "parading" around the house! Here the cheers are for real. Christy decided to forgo the parade to tightie up around our camp and pull out the stuff I would need to prep our big meats. After the parade all the teams are invited to dinner "on the hill". I had to pass this up to prep our meat. I tend to make a mess espesially with injections. The solution? Surgical gowns!

I'm not a real Doctor but I play one at BBQ Competitions!

Things went fairly smooth and it was a typical BBQ Competition Friday night. Lots of prep, the smokers were fired up and the air is mixed with equal parts hickory smoke and anticipation! For some it's also hammer time. And I don't mean with an MC - this ain't no disco. The adult beverages were flowing. Even Guy Fieri from the Food network was in the spirit. Our nieghbors were not immune either!

Some guys just LOVE Jack Daniel's

By Saturday morning the rain had stopped. We got up stretched a bit and checked our big meat (Briskets & Butts). Then it was time to get the ribs going. As soon as the temps were stable the lure of fresh coffee over at Chix, Swine & Bovine proved to be to much. A quick cup of coffee with them (diet coke for me) then back to camp to prepare for the fastest two hours in sports: the KCBS turn ins. Only in addition to the "Fantastic Four" we were doing the Sauce and the Chef's Choice contests.

It turned out to be a great day and by mid-morning the crowds began to form. Turns started at 11:30 with the sauce. Things went fairly smooth all the way through. The only hick-up was with our chef's choice. When it was time to put them on I couldn't find the grill rack I wanted so I resortred to tin foil (The bottoms didn't crisp) & when it was time to take them off Christy was busy with something and I had a little trouble getting them off by my self. They turned out OK. Great flavour - just a little soggy on the bottom.

As usual Christy did all the turn ins and we did the last one together. After the last turn in Christy turned to straighting up and packing some stuff away. I had a mission. We picked up a barrel head from the barrel shop and my job was to get as many signatures as I could. (See top of the page). I think I did OK. We were late getting started with the signatures but I was able to track most teams down. I even got Guy form the food Network to sign it. Now that's "Off Da Hook!" (editor's note: "Off Da Hook" is Guy's signature phrase and loosly tranlated means "Dat's Da Bomb", "Cool", "Slick", or "The Cat's Pyjamas" depending on your generation.)

After grabbing a bunch of signatures I joined Christy in the least fun part of the whole deal. Break down and packing. I started with ash and water pan residue disposal. The smokers are loaded first so it's nice to have them cool and spark free. Then it's on to the coolers. Before to long though it was awards time - this stuff would have to wait. Not that we were expecting a call in this crowd but you always hope.

The one thing I would change about the Jack is the awards ceremony. It seemed to go on forever! (I'm sure you're thinking the same thing about this page.) There were special presentations awarded. They introduced the retired and new Jack Daniel's Master Distilers. There was a special award sponsored by T.G.I.F. Fridays restaraunts presented by Guy Fieri. Finally, they got to the BBQ stuff. They called to 10 so each catagory took some time. Plus the sun had set by now and it was getting cold - we didn't think to bring our coats. Neither of us wanted to run back and get them. With our luck if we did they would call the Virginia BBQ Pirates and one of us would miss it. (We can hope can't we?). We did have friends who got calls including Divine Smoke, Dizzy Pigs & Chix, Swine and Bovine - pictured below. We did end up 46th over all out of 78 teams. Not to shabby. But our chicken was 21st! All year we've stuggled with chicken and to finish that high in this crowd was truly "Off Da Hook"!

After awards we decided we would stay on site for the night and finish packing in the morning. Our plans included dinner with the CS&B folks at the little resturaunt on the town square. Whoops. It was about 7:30 on a Saturday night and in Lynchburg that means only one thing. Everything is closed. (gives the town a kinda 'Salem's Lot appeal) Jen even asked a cop who had been directing traffic if there was someplace that would deliver - only to be greeted with laughter. With no place left to turn Barbara comes to the rescue. Jen can make spagetti! And a fine meal it was (I even had seconds!)

Since the morning dew comes with nightfall in the holler Christy & I chose to sleep in the car. Not the most comfortable option but at least it was dry and we had heat available - and it did get cold. Morning came and as expected no one had stopped by to pack us up. Damn, that happens (or doesn't) every time. Everthing was cold and wet - the morning dew here is relentless. We fired up our little heater to warm our hands and got everything loaded up in no time. That is if 3 hours is "in no time".

We took off following the the same path we took coming in. It took about 11 hours to get there so we planned to be home about 10:30. Remember Lynchburg is on central time so yes we left at 10:30. Our golden hour. One thng we didn't count on was missing our turn in Tullahoma. Route 55 turns to the left but we kept going to Winchester. When we stopped for gas and to ask for directions I half expected to hear "Aintry? This river don't go to Aintry." Luckily that's anouther trip. We got directions and soon were back on track. We only lost an hour so that moves our arrival back to 11:30.

As we got closer to home we began to notice something strange. Even taking into account the time we lost going to Winchester it was taking forever for us to get home. Could there be something supernatural going on? Why was it taking so long? Are these questions just retorical or do I have a point? As day turned to night we continued on. We recalculated our arrival time again and again and each time our ETA was later. We thought about stopping for the night but then we'd still need to get up in time to for me to get to work so on we drove. We did eventually get home - about 2:30 in the morning. Just enough time for me to grab a couple hours sleep and then rush off to work. Next time we make a better plan.

We did have a great time and look forward to being lucky enough to go again sometime.

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