All right, below are the rumors I’ve heard about BBQ Fest. Keep in mind that all of the below are RUMORS and not anything I’ve confirmed with Memphis in May:
- The festival will be downsized next year. This one is almost certainly true, as construction will begin on Beale Street Landing, and that will cut into the amount of space they have available at Tom Lee Park.
- In order to compensate for the reduced space, the rumor is that MIM plans to reduce the number of teams. I keep hearing that they intend to eliminate some of the smaller teams. Not sure if that means just the Patio Porkers, who are by definition smaller teams, or if it extends to the smaller teams competing in the Big Three (shoulder, ribs, whole hog) as well.
- Another rumor is that they plan to make it more corporate, and one way they plan on doing this and also getting rid of the smaller teams is to raise entry fees considerably. I’ve heard the number $5,000 thrown around more than one time, but again, that is all hearsay. In one case I heard $15,000. The idea, I’ve been told, is to raise it to a number high enough where it would be very hard to enter without heavy corporate sponsorship.
- Another rumor is that they want to make it more of an international competition, with teams from the US and around the world. Therefore, it’s been rumored that the competition will become an invitation-only event, with some current teams grandfathered in and with teams who finished near the top in previous years’ competition receiving automatic bids.
- There’s also a new governing body that sanctions the contests, Memphis Barbeque Network. Prior to the first of 2008, Memphis in May was its own sanctioning body. Rumor is that since MIM wants the event to be more reflective of a world championship, they’re going to start inviting teams from other circuits, e.g. KCBS, FBA, etc. Problem is those circuits are a completely different format, don’t do on-site judging, and don’t cook MIM-style BBQ anyway.
Again, all just rumors, but I’ve heard this so many times (and a couple of times, from people connected to the aforementioned Memphis Barbeque Network) that I figured it deserved to be posted. If these rumors are incorrect, Memphis in May deserves the chance to refute them.
If this turns out to be true, it sounds like MIM is going to royally screw up one of the best festivals ever. Hate to see it happen to one of my favorite tube top-watching events of the year. Perhaps Memphians will react by boycotting their other events, Music Fest and Sunset Symphony, en masse.
Will keep you posted as I hear more. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’ve got anything.