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The Great American BBQ Tour rolls through Stagecoach and beyond

April 29, 2009 |  1:55 pm


Nothing announces the long, lazy progress of summer like barbecue. So, it was little wonder that droves of music and meat-loving folks showed up last weekend to sample the flame-grilled flavors of the nearly 60 teams facing off at the fifth stop of the Great American BBQ Tour: the Stagecoach country music festival in Indio, Calif.

Organized by the Kansas City Barbeque Society, the tour lasts for nearly eight months (from March through October) and hits 25 locations across the country, with the goal of promoting barbecue love, education and competition.

The cook-off at Stagecoach featured challenges in what judge and KCBS rep Merl Whitebook termed "the four food groups: chicken, pork butt, pork ribs and brisket," and gave bonus points for the most creative booth set-up. My vote went to Roadkill BBQ, which featured a hillbilly-type shack, a train grille and a garbage can outfitted to look like a "possum cooker."

After two packed days of meat sizzling, fat dripping and spicy sauce sloshing, the grand prize went to Lotta Bull BBQ, with the the Smokepranos coming in as reserve champions. (For a full rundown of the results in all categories, click here.)

Also, a special shout-out to Long Beach's own Big Mista's BBQ, whose jovial pit master Neil Strawder turned out quite a showing for his Four Q BBQ team, which came in No. 1 in Best Team Show (which gauges  how a team interacts with the public); No. 2 in People's Choice; and No. 7 in the best booth competition.

"I think the pin-the-nipple-on-the-pig got us that award," Strawder said in reference to the team show award. That's quite possible: Strawder's chalkboard sign featuring a pig with detachable nipples certainly did rule the field when I strolled through.

For a photo gallery of the Stagecoach event, click here.

-- Jessica Gelt

Photos from left: The Tex A Cue team's 1953 Airstream is named Lucille; Neil Strawder of Big Mista's BBQ shows off a pile of pulled pork; a giant pig keeps the crowds entertained. Credit: Jessica Gelt.