BBQ Fest: Tips for first-year team members

Back with another one of my posts about BBQ Fest which happens on the river next week. This post is going to be directed at first-year BBQ team members – in particular Moody Ques first-year members, but a lot of what I am about to tell you would apply to any team. These are some tips to help you get the most out of your BBQ team experience.

First of all, get the phone number of at least one teammate who has a “24.” In your team packet, you’ll get a plastic wristband that gets you entry to Tom Lee Park during public park hours Wednesday-Saturday. (I tend to snap mine real loose so I can slip it off at night.) However, you’ll notice that 17 of our members have a different-colored plastic wristband with “24 Hour Access” printed on them. These people can come and go anytime they please, whether during public park hours or not. The cooks need these of course, and many of the team leaders will have them. Not only does a “24” give you the right to be in the park anytime you need to, it lets you bring outside food and alcohol in. So if you’re bringing a side or a dessert or your own beer, and you have a regular public park hours wristband, you’ll need someone with 24-hour access to meet you at the gate.

(Side note: I myself don’t wear a “24.” I am offered one every year but turn it down. As Director of Public Relations, there’s really nothing that will be going on in the park at 3 AM that I need to report about.)

Next up: Let’s talk about guest wristbands. For the busy nights (Thursday and Friday) team members get a number of guest wristbands so their friends can come to the booth and visit. These paper wristbands do not get your invited guests in the park, so they will still need to pay for a ticket at the gate. What the guest wristband does is let our off-duty MPD security at the door know that your guests were invited to our booth by a team member.

First piece of advice: Unless you are ONE HUNDRED PERCENT certain your guests will come, do not hand out any guest wristbands in advance. Wait until guests are physically in the park and are calling and texting you that they have arrived. The reason is that a high number of wristbands handed out in advance never get used. People have stuff come up and decide not to go to BBQ Fest. Or they visit so many teams in the Ribs division that they never make it south to Shoulder. Those guest wristbands are like gold at BBQ Fest for people not on teams, so treat them that way.

The advice in the paragraph above is doubly true if the people you’re inviting are in the service industry. Nothing against service industry folks whatsoever, but a lot of times they will pick up shifts at the last minute so their co-workers can go to BBQ Fest. Wait until they are in the park.

Don’t give out a guest wristband to someone who a considerable number of your teammates know equally well as you do. They will get in the booth one way or the other, so don’t worry about it. Save your guest wristbands for people who would not get in without knowing you.

If you’re not going to use your guest wristbands, let one of the team leaders know. There is always a need for extras.

If you feel it is appropriate to ask, encourage your invited guests who are not team members to feed the pig (leave a tip). Team members are not expected to feed their own pig. However, if you visit other booths and enjoy other BBQ teams’ hospitality, it makes the Moody Ques look good if you feed their pig.

It is very possible that you will ruin a pair of shoes at BBQ Fest. If we get even one good rain in the week preceding BBQ Fest, the sidewalks will be covered in mud. Run to the shoe store and get a pair of shoes you don’t mind throwing away at the end of the weekend. If the weather is nice and the shoes survive, bonus.

If you’re outside the booth and the ice truck rolls by, stick your head in the door and shout “DO WE NEED ICE?” We usually do.

If you look at the river bluff, every so often there are signs with numbers on them. I think these are for riverboat navigation, but they can be extremely useful for giving invited guests an approximate idea where your booth is in the park. Look and see which numbered sign is closest to your booth. Houses are also good for approximating location (“we’re across from the white house with balconies on all three stories”). By the way, this advice applies to meeting up with people at Music Fest and 901 Fest as well.

On Thursday and Friday nights we have an off-duty MPD officer working the door, if you aren’t busy, he’d appreciate it a lot if you ask him if he needs anything. It will likely be hot in the evening so he might appreciate a bottle of water. Or he might need someone to watch the door for a couple of minutes while he sweeps the booth to make sure there are no problems.

Around the park there are vendors selling fresh-squeezed lemonade. If you’ve hit the booze a bit hard and are starting to feel tired and dehydrated with hours left to go in the day, one of those lemonades and maybe an hour or two break from alcohol can do wonders for helping you catch your second wind.

Judging happens from 11 AM to noon Saturday for shoulder teams. During that time only the presenting team members and the cooks will be allowed in the booth. Team members are invited to come stand outside (if possible wear your team shirts) to politely applaud the judges as they leave. We can pull a keg outside so team members can have beer. The park opens at 10 that morning and it would be nice if we could have a few volunteers to come get the booth in pristine condition for the judges.

For those who would prefer to wait until the judges have left, I will organize a team meetup at a nearby location where we can grab a few beers and then walk over to the park together. Details to follow.

If we’re told the judges are coming back and we have to get out of the booth again… don’t feel inconvenienced, because that is great news! It means the judges are trying to figure out the top 10, and we’ve made it. Trust me, in that case the party we’ll have Saturday evening will more than make up for the extra time standing outside in the afternoon.

I hope these tips helped… if you have any questions, please ask. Back at lunchtime with Wednesday news.