You'd think that would have answered all of everyone's questions about the festival, but it didn't. I heard some of the old complaints like, "You can't taste any of the competitors' barbecue" and, "You can't even buy a pork shoulder sandwich down there" and, "It's nothing but a bunch of funnel cake stands." Plus there was a new one this year: "What about the Titans game going on Saturday night?"
Legitimate questions all, so I took a little walk down the riverfront during lunchtime to get the skinny on the pork fat so all you Bitesters will want to come down and give a visit.
First of all, unlike some other festivals in town, there is actually shade available at the Music City BBQ Championship. Between the trees along First Avenue, the numerous tents where cooking demonstrations are being held and under the shadow of the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge, there is at least enough shade to take a brief respite from the sun. Plus, the fun doesn't really get rolling until after 5 p.m. tonight anyway, when The WannaBeatles hit the stage.
Regarding the competitors being able to distribute their wares: They certainly can't sell it, because you would want them to have to pass the same health inspections that any mobile food vendor in town would. That rule is for your safety. But if you walk the midway tonight, there might be a morsel of brisket or pork offered to you. You are free to eat it at your own peril, which I can't imagine would actually be that perilous. (And I suggest you strongly consider it because some of them are outrageously good, and hey, you gotta die of something.) Seriously, after judging is completed tomorrow and the teams are not concentrating on the competitive aspects, many of them like to share their efforts with passers-by.
But since neither I or anyone associated with the festival can officially tell you there is free ’que to be had, why not go ahead and just buy a sandwich from several of your favorite purveyors of pork that are setting up fully inspected mobile stands at the event? Just a short stroll during setup showed that you'll have a plethora of excellent choices for great food, which will also keep your dining money local. I saw Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint and Pat's 40-foot Hogzilla trailer set up right by the front gates next to my friend Carey Bringle and his Peg Leg Porker competition team. Pat is selling sandwiches, but Carey is not, so he can "pay attention to the competitive cooking." I guarantee that single block between those two trailers will have as much fun as any 200 linear feet in Tennessee this weekend.
Finally, if you are heading to the Titans-Bears game tomorrow night, festival organizers have decided to allow reentry if you pay to visit the festival and the car show during the day and want to return after the game to hear Ronnie Milsap or see who won the big pig awards. That's a whole day and night of fun for one price and only one search for a parking spot.
Head on town tonight and tomorrow and have a swine of a time.