Sweet Georgia Pigs & Peaches

"Experience the mouth-watering aroma and delicious taste of smoke-cooked barbeque, savor every heavenly bite of sweet peach desserts, and take delight in every moment of fun at the City of Kennesaw's Pigs & Peaches BBQ Festival.The festival features a Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned BBQ contest, which is recognized as a Georgia Barbecue Championship contest; as well as a Backyard BBQ, Anything Butt and Peach Dessert Contest. Over $16,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded to contest winners."

                                                     -from Pigs & Peaches website

 My tent was set up right across from one of the PitMaster Champions BBQ vendors...almost time to open!

My tent was set up right across from one of the PitMaster Champions BBQ vendors...almost time to open!

A warning. The proceeding bad grammar, misspellings and dumb insights are mine and mine only.Basically I am Hank Hill, add the BBQ/Chef gear and accesseries nix the propane. I don't  compete as a BBQ cook, smoker, griller or any other appropriate moniker. These reviews are for crafters, BBQ enthusiasts, and circus clowns(like me) who make their living traveling the roads of these great United States every week, selling their wares. If you like these little snapshots of our lives, great. If you don't, it ain't that serious!


Listen... my wife and I have participated BBQ competitions all over the East Coast. Up in the Georgia hills, the Tennessee backwoods, the Jersey Shore, Key West, all over the place. This show in Kennesaw, Georgia is one of my favorites. Why? We have watched it grow from nothing into a nice show...plus I don't have to travel much. This show started in 2007  in a parking lot, with our tent setup under a huge oak tree and maybe 20 BBQ competitors. Now it has over 100 professional and backyard competitors, KCBS certified, with over $16,000 in cash prizes- It is now not only the best in the state of Georgia, but one of the best in the country. Kennesaw is only about 20 minutes outside of Atlanta, so you don't have to take any 'as the crow fly' backroads to get there. Pigs & Peaches is set in Adams Park, and most of it is within the parking lots and interior roads of the park. There is a combination of former KCBS competitors & backyard barbeque vendors selling the particular brand of 'Que. Many of the vendors are past winners of Pigs & Peaches and other BBQ competitions nationwide. News Flash: People actually like coming to BBQ comps to eat/sample barbeque, not just watch the competitors! I have participated in so many competitions where they only have 2-3 bbq vendors-great dinero for the chosen bbq'ers, but it which long lines and people get frustrated. I would much rather sample lots of different recipes for ribs and brisket. There are atleast 25 individual vendors with their own particular take on swine, fowl and beef. The cool thing about competitive BBQ contests is that there really isn't much bad barbeque to be had from professional smokers. Difference between Grand Champ and second place is pretty small generally speaking. I am not a flag waiver or proponent of the definition of real BBQ. Generally, any meat the meets grill with smoke means good in my book. I like it with a simple salt/pepper dry rub and I like it with sauce. I like Kansas City style  tomato based thick sauces and I like Carolina style sauce with the red pepper and vinegar. I like it all!

 This is a shot from our tent as the rainstorm drives all of the patrons away. Always carry tent sides...you never know!

This is a shot from our tent as the rainstorm drives all of the patrons away. Always carry tent sides...you never know!

Another reason Pigs & Peaches has grown is that spectators are allowed in free, so they average anywhere from 30K-50K spectators, so it is a more family atmosphere because everybody comes. Believe it or not, I have participated in BBQ competitions that patrons actually have to pay to walk around within the festival. There is a huge area for kids to play, seating for a couple hundred spectators at one of the 2 music stages. We have done this show about 7 years, but this year we were tortured by heat and rain. It was about 95 degrees at about 85% humidity, which means lots of sweat and electric fans. Friday night the festival doesn't open til 6pm, so it was relatively cool(bout 75 degrees), but Saturday, the busiest day of the festival, it was hot. Luckily brought the electric fan with me, the crowds were a little smaller and less willing to spend money. Many of the BBQ vendors traditionally run out of food on Saturday, but for the first time ever, they were forced to drop their prices because of the smaller crowds.

Pigs & Peaches is a nice overall experience. The setting is urban, but the spirit and atmosphere is surely good ol' country Southern charm. Parking can be tight sometimes around the venue, and will probably costs around $5, contribution going to local Boy Scout troops. They have got atleast 2 beer & wine tents for patrons, so you can get your liquor on. There are several few sponsored tents scattered throughout the affair with giveaways and sales pitches. Live bands play old rock n'roll and soul music from morn til night, with fireworks at the end of the show on Saturday around 9:30pm. If you are ever in the Atlanta area towards the end of August, I would definitely come thru and taste some brisket, ribs, and pulled pork from these iron chef barbeque specialists at Pigs & Peaches. If you are a crafter or sell BBQ accessories, it can be a decent show financially, but like any other craft/food festival its still a bit of a crap shoot. I have participated since the beginning so I tend to have a lotta repeat customers. Any crafters/bbq'ers that need more specifics can always email me at bbqaffairs@gmail.com. One love-I am outta here!

Que by the Sea: Under The Boardwalk

 

Seaside Heights BBQ Championship: The Boardwalk Barbeque, Nails and All

seaside heights.JPG

 

I am almost Hank Hill from "King of the Hill", except that I am not married to Lady Propane-I sell barbeque accessories. I participated in the first “Que by the Sea” four years ago. I was referred to the show while working the New Jersey Barbeque Championship- I met a guy who sold barbeque sauce, and told me I should try the show. Seaside Heights is a small seaside town(obviously right?!) showing some signs of rust, but seemed to be shedding its old exterior to reemerge to attract that tourist dollar. Seaside has a 1980’s Coney Island vibe to it. The town had already seen recent fame as the backdrop for the infamous MTV reality show “Jersey Shore” with its casts of Rhodes scholars and future Senators. I have personally never watched the show, but I’ve heard things. The central hub is the boardwalk area with all kinds of old school pizza and ice cream eateries, kiddie roller coasters and rides a few feet from the Atlantic.

So this year, I am happily driving from Atlanta to Hackensack-I’ve got 2 shows booked, the Atlantic City Seafood Festival and the Que by The Sea. I’m looking forward to the trip because although I grew up in Long Island, New York, my family now lives in Jersey and Manhattan and I’ll be able to see them and hang out. Do I want to move back to NY? No, but I still miss the little things…egg and cheese sandwiches on fresh Kaiser rolls with ketchup, Joe and Evan WFAN sports radio, etc. I’m staying with family before going doing the Atlantic City show first. I am riding along my wife texts me and says, “Have you seen the news? Big Fire in Seaside!” Now, my wife is prone to flights of fancy, so ‘big fire’ is probably an overstatement in my mind. I left Georgia at 2pm so I literally crawled into Jersey at about 6am the next morning. I wake up around 11am and flip on the tv and it screams “The Seaside Heights boardwalk is on fire and about 30 businesses have been destroyed.” Top story in the metro area; Governor Christie is onsite, reporters running everywhere, store owners and residents being interviewed, the whole bit. I am speechless.

OK, I haven’t pushed any old ladies into traffic recently, or kicked any dogs, so I am in disbelief. After 4 years of waiting, I return to this show that now may be cancelled because of this devastating fire. I knew at the time I was being completely self centered, considering that many of this businesses had not any finished rebuilding from Hurricane Sandy last year, which have completely devastated many Jersey shore towns along the entire coast. Very sobering to listen to business owners who had just rebuilt their stores in July, only to have it burnt down 2 months later. I could not imagine that kind of agony. Anyway, I have no idea whether the show is cancelled, because there had been no show website updates or emails. If you know anything about doing craft and/or barbeque shows in Jersey, lack of communication between show coordinators and vendors is notorious. I think it’s a Jersey thing, baddaboom baddabing youknowwhatimean? Call the show phone number and leave a message? Might a get a call back. Send an inquiry email? Maybe you get an answer. Did you receive my application and check? Who knows. Can I participate in this show or how do I get an application? Ah, you tell us what you are selling and MAYBE we will send you an application. I am dead serious. An example, I go to a certain website to try to participate as a vendor and sent like 5 inquiry emails over a 6 month period(how are you, my name is JoeSmoe and I would like an application, blah,blah blah) It was literally 2 years later that the person finally acknowledged my inquiry, but sent me information for the wrong show-I sat at my computer laughing out loud while my wife gave me the crazy eye. Are you friggin kidding me!? But I digress. You know who had the info on the Seaside Heights BBQ? The barbeque circuit dudes, the teams who were competing- I had to go online to The Smoke Ring, a great online meeting place for BBQ enthusiasts, to find out whether the event was still on, and sure enough, one team had spoken to the promoter who confirmed the event was still happening.

 

pig pen bbq team

 

I had just done a show in Atlantic City the weekend prior, which was disappointing, but that’s a blog for another day. I was hoping the Que by The Sea would be better. I drove down to Seaside from Hackensack, checked in at the Holiday Inn at Toms River, and drove over to Seaside Friday morning. Is the boardwalk still there? Are we going surrounded by smoking embers and soot covered skeletons of small stores? I think the show had about 60 contestants following KCBS doctrine, so no tasting by patrons passing by. For me it wasn’t a great show financially. There was seafood festival going on at the same time in the next town, and the people strolling through the Que were not well to do but looked like me, with their disposable income being represented by the change stuck in between the couch cushions. There were some awesome BBQ teams there, most being from the Tri-State area, but some were from the Midwest also. I know there is this notion that Yankees don’t know anything about good barbeque, but I beg to differ. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, great barbeque is a universal language. People will seek it out and learn the virtues of hickory, brisket and the low and slow flow. Even in South Jersey.

The Beginning: From Corporate to Crafters

 3 pints a day keeps the doctor away.

3 pints a day keeps the doctor away.

Salutations! I’ve always thought 'salutations' was a regal greeting…first heard it scarfing down Cheetos watching “Charlotte’s Web”, the story about the runt pig, Wilbur, and a congenial spider, Charlotte, who saves him from impending slaughter before she dies. I have an alternate but more realistic ending for our sacred swine- Wilbur would have won first place at the Jack Daniels BBQ Invitational as a rack of ribs and a picnic shoulder instead of the blue ribbon the state fair. No arachnidan scribbles in a web would have prevented that reality, atleast in my world. Already thinking barbeque at the ripe old age of nine, a precursor to my ‘now’ life. Anyway, my name is Brent- my wife, Nichelle and I are professional crafters/artists, aka moderately poor people with some thread, a bobbin and some tubes of oil paint. We earn our meager bags of coins as all imaginative serfs do, travelling the roads across the bogs and meadows of this united kingdom to sell our wares at craft shows, food festivals and barbeque competitions. We started, and I say ‘we’ with a sly grin about 7 years ago. My wife was busy knickknacking her crafts in between watching after our daughter, and I was the guy in background whispering, “You are wasting your time!” She has always been a creative person, never really content with pushing papers from a grey cubicle for the man. I was the consummate sucker who believed that if I were a loyal and diligent worker, the company will surely financially take care of me and my future minions for the life of my labor. But alas, this is the folly of every indentured servant. It took my lovely wife to philosophically slap me around a little and allow me to see another path. Go with your passion. Many of us entirely change our profession at some point in life, by choice or by fire. For us, it took a little of both.

 Beautiful cut ribs! You can do the Homer Simpson drool looking at these.

Beautiful cut ribs! You can do the Homer Simpson drool looking at these.

Nichelle did small local craft shows sporadically, selling whatever her creativity lead her to- car dashboard ornaments, etched glass jars, children’s travel bags, baby cart seats, dishtowel men, table runners, and I can keep going.  At the time, I was working 70 hours at an orange big box retailer, but sometimes would get a free Saturday morning and I would help her set up at her local shows.  Saturday craft show days  starting at 6am and ending that evening-sometimes she would make $200, sometimes $20. When customers didn't buy certain things, she kept it up and created something else. I have forgotten what led her to this, but Nichelle then focused on making scrub tops, and found a winner. She became as the ‘Scrub Lady’, she went from dentist office to hospital lunch room selling her handsewn custom apparel to nurses, doctors and dentist. Awesome! She finally found a niche she could exploit. Then the inevitable happens-many hospitals started requiring that employees wear solid scrub uniforms, which significantly impacted her scrub business. We have to shift focus again.Nichelle then signed to do a barbeque festival in South Georgia called the BigPigJig. Take 75 south and you will eventually hit the small town of Vienna. It is in this nook of a place where we saw a more tangible future for this endeavor- heck, who knew all things barbeque is a multi-billion dollar business?!. Her crafts were a huge hit on that Saturday afternoon-her aprons and mitts mingled with the wafting hickory smoke of the barbeque competitors, and we sold the most merchandise we ever sold, over $1100 dollars, and our customers loved great barbeque and worshipped the pigskin. As a half Yankee outsider(born in Memphis, grew up in NY), I had no idea about how popular college football was in Georgia. In Long Island, NY, it barely registered on the radar, but college basketball had a phenomenal following in the 1980s. The religion of football in the South is distinctive and scary, with team indoctrination  begins at a toddler’s first steps. Georgia or Tennessee. Alabama or Auburn, no middle ground, a side must be chosen like the Hatfields and McCoys. There is a familial state pride associated with every school fan base that spans decades, mixed with a omnipresent Southern anger predating the Civil War, which creates a fan base in each state that sometimes live and die with every snap. People are glued to their TVs, radios and Iphone apps to get the scoop on their teams every move. The tailgate or pregame rituals are just as elaborate, with fans getting together sometimes the day before the game to swap stories, have beverages, and, you guessed it, barbeque. This specific religion goes hand in hand with football, with coaches and bbq masters often speaking to the same congregation, so that became our market for our goods, thus, BBQ, Beer & Balls. Ad you ask, where does the beer fit in? Like who doesn’t combine a little brown brew with the big game, or baste ribs with Budweiser or thrill their tailgate buddies with some tasty beer can chicken. Beer is a universal good. Beer always fits in.

 Some of our customers wearing their hand sewn team cooking mitts at the Beer & Bourbon BBQ festival in Atlanta.

Some of our customers wearing their hand sewn team cooking mitts at the Beer & Bourbon BBQ festival in Atlanta.

We hope you enjoy our little corner of the universe. Hope to give you and yours some insights about the BBQ events and food festivals we have attended. We pray that some of our writing will entertain and provide some help and inspiration to other crafters and artists who may need a nudge to go walk off that cliff and go pro solo. No rainbows or unicorns blog here-it can be a tough go as a professional crafter, artist, chef, whatever, and making that work with two small kids, a mortgage, and very little left in the 401K. But its been almost 6 years, and I still wouldn't give it up. Lots of travel, cool experiences and great people-don't get me wrong though, some financial agony and dark days have been endured by our family. The pain is part of the journey, and its your job to fail everyday as an entrepreneur. We fall down, but we get up.