Chow Town postcard: Sights, sounds of the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue
Lynchburg, Tenn. — In this Tennessee hollow where every drop of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey is distilled and barrel aged, it makes perfect sense that whiskey and barbecue got married here 29 years ago.
Although there are differences between Lynchburg, Tenn., population 600, and metro Kansas City, population more than 2 million, there are many similarities — hills, bluffs and hollows, an abundance of hickory, oak and maple trees, and the aroma of meat fires throughout the two communities.
Upwards of 30,000 people buy food and products from vendors and local stores, tour the distillery and contest grounds, visit with barbecue teams and otherwise engage in the fun at the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational Competition, nicknamed “The Jack.”
There were 22 international teams and 72 domestic championship teams from the United States competing for World Championship honors. Forty-two teams competed for Shade Tree Grand Champion.
Each international and invitational team received the traditional Magic Hickory Nut for inspiration and good luck. Distributing the nut is always one of the highlights for me, along with administering the Judges Oath.
I also got to bestow a Golden Rib Award to James “Barney” Reynolds for his exemplary volunteer help with the hickory nuts and Jasper over the years. Then later he was honored as Volunteer of the Year.
Teams, judges and friends partied Friday night on Barbecue Hill with music, beverages and a Southern fried chicken dinner. Hundreds of regrets from those present at the party and those who couldn’t be there were ceremoniously burned in a metal pig named Jasper hoisted onto fiery logs, with help from Master Distiller Jeff Arnett and KC pitmaster and Barbecue Hall of Famer Paul Kirk.
On Saturday, more than 100 Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) Certified Barbecue Judges evaluated seven categories: sauce, cook’s choice/home cookin’ from the homeland, chicken, ribs, pork, beef and dessert.
Judging fantastic barbecue with a “family” of more than 100 barbecue faithful.
Eating a whiskey-sprinkled burger with fries at Lynchburg Fix’ins.
Relishing Grilled Cheese on Crack at Barrel House BBQ with Les and Sue Christen. Simple concept, delicious result: lightly sauced bbq pulled pork topped with American cheese on buttered Texas toast. No wonder this creation of pitmaster Chuck Baker was voted “Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich in Tennessee.”
Plan ahead for next year: The 30th annual on Oct. 26- 27.
Ardie Davis founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub & Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on food shows and writes for barbecue-related publications. He is author/co-author of 11 published barbecue books and is a 2016 inductee into the Barbecue Hall of Fame.