This January 28 – 29, and then February 4-5, you can come eat world-class barbecue with Swamp Boys at 2 of the best events in the state.
The Lakeland Pigfest happens Friday, Jan. 28 from 5:00pm – 10:00pm, and again Saturday from 10:00am – 5:00pm. Parking is free and entry is $5, 12 and under are free. Buy Pig Bucks at the booth when you get there, then come find us. 20% of all of our sales will will go to help local charities.
Winter Haven’s Smoke on the Water is Friday and Saturday, Feb. 4 – 5. This is a major fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Polk County, and 20% of our sales will be going back to the B&G Clubs. Admission on Friday is $10 and is more adult oriented with a party vibe. Saturday is for the family, with admission just $2 and kids 10 and under are free.
Insider tip for both events – come early. We cook all of our bbq fresh onsite, and we will run out before closing time. Also, we can package your food to-go, so you can enjoy it later. And check out this article from 3 years ago on How to Make the Most of a BBQ Contest as a Spectator.
Although the worst of the global pandemic is apparently behind us, some unlikely trickle down effects are causing problems in the barbecue sauce world for us little guys. Plastic is in short supply.
When COVID hit, supply chains became screwed up worldwide. This affected plastics production along with most everything else. Then add in the winter storm that hit Texas in February, which shut down many petroleum based plants, and we have an even bigger problem. According to this article in the Harvard Business Review, it may take up to a year to get everything in the plastic supply chain back in balance.
What does this have to do with Swamp Boys BBQ Sauces? It means your favorite retail store may run out for a bit. It means that there are going to be times when we can’t get plastic bottles. It means sometimes when we can get plastic bottles, they may look different than our traditional bottle. It means our glass jars and lids may change – and they have. All nightmares for brands that count on continuity.
Thanks for your patience while we work through some changes. It’s frustrating to not be able to provide our products to everyone who wants it. But we’re trying. And like the rest of the world, we are really looking forward to life being back to normal again. Please stay with us and thanks for your continued support.
If you enjoy BBQ and you live in or near Central Florida, consider yourself blessed. There are a lot of Florida BBQ Association (FBA) and Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) contests throughout the year for you, and you can find out about them from the websites I’ve listed. If you’ve never been to one they can be a little hard to figure out. Let me try to help.
Parking can be a challenge, but don’t let it be. At Smoke on the Water this weekend in Winter Haven, they have free satellite parking. That is the way to go. A free shuttle service will be running back and forth all weekend. Look for the Satellite Parking signs on Havendale Boulevard. This is a great way to avoid the stress of finding a spot to park.
It is important to understand that the majority of contests are organized and put on by volunteers, and they are usually raising money for local charities. If you’re not sure and want to know, ask someone or check their website. If you’re asked to pay for parking or to pay to get in, know that it is likely benefiting a local charity. And helping those in need is a good thing. That said, the majority are free to enter.
Now you’re inside the gate, and the wonderful smells of hickory smoke, juicy pork and chicken, and succulent beef are filling the air. Your stomach rumbles and you’re ready to eat. The first thing you’ll want to do is buy some of the designated money/currency for the event. Since most are fundraisers, most make you pay for everything you buy in “_______ – Bucks”. The blank could be PIG, BBQ, or anything else. For now we’ll call them BBQ Bucks. Find the area where they are being sold and buy some. It is $1 for 1 BBQ Buck. Vendors are not allowed to take your cash money, they must take BBQ Bucks. The vendors turn in their BBQ Bucks at the end of the event and get paid $0.80 on the dollar. This is one way the charities make money from the event. BBQ Bucks are non-refundable so keep that in mind.
With your bucks in hand, it’s time to start sampling the foods now. Sometimes there are literally dozens and dozens of choices, like at Lakeland Pig Fest or Winter Haven’s Smoke on the Water. Sometimes there are only 5 or 6 choices. Know that some vendors will be much, much better than others. Pitmasters love to show off their accomplishments with trophies and/or banners on display. Unfortunately not all vendors are 100% honest with their advertising. Just because the signs are 75′ up in the air, doesn’t mean their food is great. So who do you go to? Ask around. Ask the other teams who aren’t selling their food where they would go eat, and who they would avoid. They know, and they will be honest with you. Life’s too short for bad BBQ. Educate yourself on where to spend your BBQ Bucks.
Besides great food, there may also be live music, craft vendors, car shows, cornhole tournaments, cooking demos, water ski shows, seaplane rides, auctions, 50/50 raffles, and who knows what else. BBQ contests usually offer All-American fun stuff to do and see. Make sure you get around to see everything. BBQ contests give the host towns a chance to shine and celebrate their community.
If you have the time, stick around until 5pm Saturday and watch the BBQ awards show, usually at the main stage. For most teams, this is the reason they are at the contest. Teams can spend anywhere from $900 – $1500 and up to enter a single contest. Most are on-sight for a minimum of 24 hours and up to 60 hours. A contest is a major investment of time and money. The teams turn in chicken, ribs, pork, and brisket at predetermined times. Tables of certified judges score the entries in a double blind format, so they don’t know whose food they are judging. The highest scores for each category win money and trophies. The team with the highest total score of all categories among the teams wins Grand Champion (GC). The second highest score wins Reserve Grand Champion (RGC). Doing well in one category is nice, but being consistent in every category and winning GC is the ultimate. This usually qualifies you for the big national invitational contests and is quite an accomplishment. It’s a long standing tradition in the FBA that the winner buys pizza for everyone Saturday evening. The Saturday night get together is the best part of the weekend for a lot of the teams.
I hope this will help you enjoy the next BBQ contest you visit. The teams and certainly the organizers and charities are happy and thankful you’ve come out to help support the community. And the fact that we get to enjoy BBQ, America’s original cuisine, makes it awesome.
The first Swamp Boys Q School for 2018 is scheduled!
March 17-18, 2018 is the date for my Q School to be held in Winter Haven, lakefront on Lake Cannon. Come enjoy the perfect weather and learn what I have learned over the past 14 years of competition barbecue. The only 3-time Florida BBQ Association Team of the Year, and 2017 TOTY.
This techniques class will cover both ‘hot and fast’ and ‘low and slow’ methods. FBA and KCBS covered. You want to be the best bbq’r in your neighborhood? Come see me, I’ll make it happen. You want to improve your competition cooking? Let’s do it.
Print the application below (March_18 QSchool), fill it out and mail it in with your check. Need to pay with a credit card? Use the PayPal link. A PayPal account is not required. The PP fee will be added to your total. Still must mail in the application.
Lynchburg is where the famous whiskey has always been made and bottled. To most all professional barbecuers, “The Jack” is considered one of – if not the – premier contests in the world. So we were stoked when we found out we would be the team representing Florida.
We left straight from teaching on Tuesday and made it up to Marietta GA where we stayed the night. The next morning we got to Lynchburg and dropped the trailer at the house we rented and made our way to Miss Mary Bobo’s for a family style lunch. We shared our table with people from South Africa and Canada who were in town to buy an entire barrel of JD! The food and the company were both excellent, and we all agreed it was the best experience we have had there in our three times going.
After that we set the trailer up in our site, which has been the same each time. We love it there right up front and center so we can interact with the public and giveaway samples of our bbq after turn-ins are over. Great spot.
Thursday we walked over to the Jack Daniel Distillery for the tour. We had Jed as our guide and he did a great job. Just like lunch at Miss Mary Bobo’s, we each thought this was the best tour we’ve had to date. Way to go Lynchburg! Then we made our way to the Lynchburg Winery and partook in a flight of five of the local wines.
Friday we took part in the Parade of Teams, following the Lynchburg High School marching band through the downtown to the Distillery. From there we loaded up on school busses which took us to the top of BBQ Hill. We were treated to a great Southern supper, live music, and free JD drinks. It was a lot of fun mingling with friends from the other teams. When that was over we went back down the hill to the cook site. The weather was rainy and in the 30’s overnight so most teams stayed warm and dry in their trailers without much socializing.
Saturday was of course turn-in day and overall things went very well. Chicken looked and tasted excellent. Ribs were darker than I prefer but the taste and tenderness were right where I wanted them. Pork was near perfect I thought. Brisket slices were money but the burnt ends had slightly too much fat in them. I liked them and was torn on whether to use them or not. I decided to NOT play it safe and added them to the box. In hindsight that was a mistake on my part. The killer brisket from The Butcher Shoppe was amazing straight from the package. I should have gone with only slices, it would have scored much higher. Lesson learned. I highly recommend The Butcher Shoppe for your high quality meat needs, and they ship! Email Kevin Green with your order and fantastic customer service.
As far as the scoring went, I came in 2nd on my tables in Chicken, Ribs, and Brisket. I came in 1st on my Pork table which was good enough for 2nd out of the 95 teams! We actually tied for 1st, but lost the tiebreaker. Regardless it was a very exciting call for us, and it pairs well with the 1st place call in Pork we received there in 2009. You may have heard me mention in the past that I am a devout Smithfield pork user. To make my point, I was unable to find the Smithfield butts I wanted locally, so I had my friends Pat and Mary bring some with them to Lynchburg from Wisconsin. And it paid off. Thanks so much Pat and Mary, and also thanks for the Wisconsin care package! #Smokinwithsmithfield #Showmeyoursmithfield