Eric Ward summed Saturday’s Bar-B-Q Block Party up pretty well.

“Things were abnormal at best, but we pulled it off,” he told the 34 cooking teams in the 10th annual Backyard Cook-Off.

Temperatures hovered in the upper 50s most of the day under gray skies with a chilly wind.

And crowds on Second Street numbered in the hundreds rather than the thousands.

But there was plenty of food and people were socializing after a year of having most events canceled.

Picnic tables were in the middle of Second Street for outdoor dining.

And some restaurants, like The Creme, were offering their own barbecue.

The coffee shop and bakery was selling pulled pork sandwiches, pork nachos and street tacos.

Most of the food booths had lines at noon.

With social distancing because of the coronavirus pandemic, the church cooking teams, which barbecue tons of mutton and chickens and hundreds of gallons of burgoo, couldn’t compete this year.

But four of them — Blessed Mother, Lourdes, Precious Blood and St. Mary of the Wood — cooked on Friday and sold meals to their fans downtown on Saturday.

This year, the backyard cooking teams were the stars of the show.

Bad Ash BBQ of Corydon, Indiana, took home the grand championship trophy and a cash prize of $1,500 in its first appearance in the local competition.

Charles Gordon said, “We weren’t even around this time last year. This is just our fifth competition anywhere.”

There was no secret recipe or sauce, he said.

“We just make regular barbecue — to perfection,” Gordon.

Saturday may have been the team’s first time in Owensboro.

But they’ll definitely be back next year, Gordon said.

Ward said a record $4,700 in prize money was handed out.

Despite the pandemic, the competition drew 34 teams from several states.

Josh Hamburg of Team Beergut, whose slogan is “Our Drinking Team Has A Cooking Problem,” said the team is the most eclectic in the competition.

“A few of us are from Owensboro,” he said. “We’ve got people here today from Florida, Alabama, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. One of our friends in Evansville was supposed to be here, but he came down with COVID and couldn’t come.”

Hamburg said the guys started cooking in Lexington when they were college students and continued to get together to cook every Sunday.

“We’ve been doing this for 24 years,” he said. “In 1996, I invited some Army buddies to come to the festival. We didn’t cook. We just enjoyed it. Then, we started cooking. Some years, we have up to 16 members. Today, it’s fewer than 10. We won’t win anything, but we’re having fun.”

Ron Wolf of White Wolf Smokers of Shanty Hollow — 12 miles north of Bowling Green — said he’s been coming to the festival for the past five or six years.

The Red & White BBQ Fest Bike Show Motorcycle Cruise In sponsored by Hells Angels Nomads KY in the Bar Louie parking lot wasn’t an official part of the festival, but it brought dozens of bikers to town.

Thirteen bikes were entered in the competition, but a large crowd of bikers came to watch and eat.

The International Bar-B-Q Festival with its carnival, arts and crafts, church cooking teams and a variety of food trucks is expected to return in 2022.

Winners in the Backyard Cook-Off:

• Best Booth Presentation — Rollin’ Smoke.

• Pork — All Sauced Up, third place; Big Daddy’s BBQ, second place; and Rollin’ Smoke, first place.

• Chicken — Big Daddy’s BBQ, third place; Ticklin’ Ribs & Rubbin’ Butts, second place; and BFT, first place.

• Beef — Lifetime Financial Growth, third place; Bad Ash BBQ, second place; and Casual Smokers, first place.

• Grand Champion — Bad Ash BBQ.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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