Our BBQ team booth had a guardian angel this year

It was a Friday night in July 2006. The Romanians were in town working for the summer and living in an apartment at Front and Union. Early in the evening I met one of girls, who later came to be nicknamed The Romanian Sensation, at Sleep Out Louie’s for a drink before she left for work.

As we were chatting, she felt a light tug on her ponytail and I heard from behind, “Hey, Pauly!” I turned around to see my friend “Big Dave” Burnette. Dave played football for Arkansas and went on to play in the NFL for the Falcons and Cowboys. Dave was a true hulk of a man, standing somewhere between 6’7″ and 6’9″ with a bald head.

Dave had mistaken the Romanian Sensation for someone else who had similar long blond hair. When she turned around, he was shocked that he’d pulled the ponytail of someone he didn’t know. “Miss, I am SO sorry,” he told her several times. The Sensation didn’t react well. She turned her back to Big Dave and for the next 5 minutes acted like a turtle retreating into its shell. Dave tried to apologize to her several more times, but he sensed he was making her uncomfortable (through no fault of his own; she overreacted to what was an innocent mistake) and let her be.

Every time I saw Dave for the next several months afterward, he said to me, “Paul, I am so sorry I upset your Romanian friend.” I thought it was funny that a former pro football player would be so concerned about the feelings of a five-foot-tall girl who had long since gone back home. That’s how Big Dave was, though. A gentle giant.

The next year, the Ques Brothers were founded and Big Dave and I became BBQ teammates. When Dave found out I was an Arkansas fan, he and I had many lengthy discussions about Arkansas football and our chances of getting to a BCS bowl. The Hogs finally got there last fall, and Dave went to the Sugar Bowl to watch his nephew, quarterback Ryan Mallett.

Last Monday I jumped out of bed with enthusiasm, celebrating the start of vacation. My mood fell through the floor, however, when I logged on to Facebook and saw a bunch of “RIP Big Dave, we miss you” messages. Dave had played a game of basketball Monday morning. After the game, he suffered a heart attack and passed away. He was fifty years old.

Like me, Big Dave was a big poker fan, but we never got a chance to play together much. Dave, I hope I have many years before I meet up with you again, but when I do perhaps we can get a $1/$2 cash game going up there. I know you were watching over our BBQ team booth this weekend, and I’m sure you saw the outpouring of love for you from your many friends. Rest in peace, brother.


Thursday night we hung Dave's photo over the entrance to the Ques Brothers booth. Our booth had a guardian angel this year.

10 BBQ Fest 2011 memories

Ten of the best memories of BBQ Fest this year, in no particular order:

– Dancing with Audrey in the Ques brothers booth

– The antelope that Nikki’s parents brought from Montana. I never knew antelope tasted so good.

– Suzy. Tube top. ‘Nuff said.

– Watching the tribute video of Big Dave made by Willy. Not Willie, our cook, or Willie Jr., our assistant cook, but another Willy who was great friends with Dave.

– The WITCH who came in our booth, ate and drank, then threw a full cup of water on me. She probably thinks she ruined my Friday and that I spent the rest of the night steaming about the incident. I hope one of my friends who was there tells her how the rest of my Friday went.

– The couple from Holland who we met on the shuttle. They came to our booth and got a tour of our cooking rig. One of the things I most enjoy about BBQ Fest is showing first-timers around.

– The rig itself. It’s the first time we’ve used a two-story trailer rather than scaffolding. You could tell it was not a new trailer – we rented it from a former team and it was a bit rusty in places – but the team enjoyed it. It was far less work than setting scaffolding up.

– Donna, the suckling pig that was served for dinner Wednesday night at the Squeal Street booth

– Pre-gaming at the Saucer every day. Frequently heard quote: “Well, you know… I was going to leave… but you know, I think I’m going to have ONE MORE!”

– The emergence of Bud Light into the premium beer category. Several of my friends didn’t want to drink the Natty that was being served in our booth, so they went to the store and bought Bud Light instead.

Still one more BBQ Fest post to come. Check back.

BBQ Fest Day 3: Saturday

COLD was the theme of BBQ Fest yesterday. It never got much above 60 and was windy most of the day. I wore my PBR hoodie and shorts. It was still a good day, but for tube top viewing it was rather bad.

Nikki is cold
Lauren is cold
Sausages of all shapes and sizes
Artichokes, which are said to be good for the liver.
Chuck’s baked beans were just about the best I’ve ever tasted.
This “load-out” event you speak of, it happens at the Saucer, right?
We had a special guest appearance by one of the Teletubbies.

Complete Saturday album here. Less than 100 pics this time, as is typical when I slow down on Saturday. We got 4th in Ms. Piggie, 5th in Best Booth and 10th in Best T-shirt. I’m not sure of our exact placement in Shoulder but have heard that we were in the top 20.

Apologies to everyone whose calls and texts went unreturned the past few days. I had a heck of a time getting a cell signal, and much of the time it was so noisy that I didn’t hear my phone go off.

KUDOS KUDOS KUDOS to Memphis in May. Given the severely limited amount of planning time they had, they put together an incredible event. Also kudos to Harrah’s for the shuttle service. I expected long waits to get to the fairgrounds and back, but the shuttles were efficient and available. Next time I go to Tunica, I plan on making Harrah’s my stop, to show them my appreciation.

And now it’s over. Back to reality. Grizzlies vs. Thunder Game 7 is on ABC at 2:30. If I had to guess where I’m watching it, I’d say Saucer but I’m open to other ideas.

I have one more post to do that is sort of related to BBQ Fest, a post that should have gone up Tuesday or Wednesday but due to timing, I haven’t typed it yet. Check back.

BBQ Fest cargo shorts

Left upper pocket: Assorted change. Breath strips. Digital camera. iPhone.

Right upper pocket: Keys, pens. On Friends & Family night, admission ticket.

Left lower pocket: Guest wristbands to the Ques Brothers booth.

Right lower pocket: iPhone charger. Spare batteries (2) for the camera.

Left back pocket: Wallet.

Right back pocket: Note pad. Not really necessary since I use Evernote on my iPhone, but handy to have as a backup.

Waist loop: Growl towel in support of the Grizzlies.

Wrist: BBQ Fest 3-day pass, Ques Brothers team wristband, Ques shuttle wristband.

BBQ Fest Day 1: Thursday

Scary moment this morning… plugged the camera into the computer and it found 0 pics. I rebooted the camera and the pics were there. Whew. Yesterday was a good day, would’ve hated to lose these.


After a few warm-up beers at the Saucer, we went to the bus stop at Second and Beale, where the shuttle arrived to take us to BBQ Fest.
On the shuttle, we made new friends from Holland who had stayed in town an extra day for BBQ Fest. They didn’t know any teams, so we pulled out Ques Brothers wristbands and invited them by. Our cooks gave them a tour of the BBQ equipment.
Journalist Skipford M. “Christopher” Blank interviews our cook Efrain for an upcoming article.
Believe it or not, I actually ate a green vegetable yesterday, thanks to Squeal Street BBQ’s amazing cook Gloria Jean.
Rebekah and friend at the Havana Mix cigar booth. Rebekah is appropriately attired for BBQ Fest in a tube top.
Ms. Piggie. The Ques Brothers transformed Motley Crüe’s hit “Girls, Girls, Girls” into the BBQ-themed “Grills, Grills Grills.”
Ever wondered who Kooky Canuck’s “Wobbly Mountie” cocktail is named for? Now you know.
Our friends at Voo Doo Q doing the “Rocky Horror Piggie Show.”
Look at the beautiful color of this Ques Brothers pork shoulder. We’re in it to win it this year.
Embarrassing moment: I was up on the second floor of our booth doing PervertCam, and I zoomed in on a green tube top far in the distance. After I took the pic I realized I had just used PervertCam on one of my BBQ teammates.
Pink tube top helps cornhole players find the hole.
The tube top is the fashion statement of 2011, as shown by fashion-conscious Esther and Amy.
My saliva, pictured above center. Ladies, two weeks from today I have to select a title pic for Tube Top Month 2011. Right now this photo of Suzy is in the lead.
After Suzy got her own pic taken, she went next door to The Hogfather and recruited more tube tops for pics.
Brooke, Suzy and Bloom. Brooke better hold on tight to that PBR koozie. I WILL steal it if given the chance.
The shuttle the Ques Brothers hired to take us home. It was supposed to leave at 15 after the hour, but instead it sat there and sat there and sat there and sat there and sat there and finally left at 12:35.

Complete photo album (188 photos) here. What a great night. And we’re about to do it again.

BBQ Fest Day 0: Friends & Family Night

I didn’t have to ride the shuttle to BBQ Fest either way yesterday. Caught a ride out there with Otto and our sponsors WordPress; rode back with Lauren and friends. I heard the shuttle ran very well though. It’s the little casino mini-buses. Here are some pics from yesterday.


This was B.S. With people riding shuttles and catching rides, no one could exactly time their arrival at the park. You’d think Memphis in May would be understanding and would let Friends & Family ticket holders in a few minutes before the 5:30 start time. But no, they made us wait, and not just til 5:30, but they opened late at 5:40. MiM has generally done a great job moving BBQ Fest but on this I have to give them a thumbs down.
Esther wins the Best Dressed Award
Dinner is served!
We miss you buddy.
Our friends at Squeal Street BBQ cooked a 20-pound suckling pig. Her name was Donna and she was delicious.
View from the second story of our BBQ rig. Doesn’t look that different from any other BBQ Fest.
Assembling the faux stained-glass windows for our team booth
Mikey, me and Bones
The exterior of our booth, still under construction with stained glass windows installed.
The booth across the sidewalk was a popular place. They had two TVs tuned into the Grizzlies game.
It took Lauren, an interior designer, nearly 30 minutes to hang one piece of fabric.
Afterward at the Silly Goose. I gave Katie Mac, pictured here, a hard time because she wanted to find someplace to sing karaoke. Katie: “I just wanted an excuse to stay out and drink.” There are much better excuses than karaoke.
Rough night for Mardoqueo at the Goose. Hola to all my Mexican readers, by the way.
At the Goose: Brick, me, Kalista, blond chick whose name I forgot

Complete photo album (about 110 photos) here. Charging the phone and camera, then back at it today. Will pre-game at the Saucer at 11, then hop a shuttle down there.

Harrah’s is providing shuttles from Downtown to BBQ Fest. What’s in it for them?

Harrah’s is providing the shuttles that will take people to and from BBQ Fest at the fairgrounds. Shuttles will run every 15 minutes, making five stops on Second Street between Exchange and Beale, and then heading directly to the festival.

You may wonder, what is Harrah’s getting out of it? Yeah, the casinos are closed so their buses aren’t being used, but they still cost money to run.

Here’s the deal: It’s an incredible opportunity for Harrah’s to promote a regional BBQ championship that happens on the grounds of their hotel and casino: The Smokin’ Aces BBQ Championship, which will happen September 16-17 in Tunica.

The Ques Brothers didn’t participate in Smokin’ Aces last year, but our friends at Squeal Street did. They told us that Harrah’s was a VERY generous host. “Each morning, they’d come by with a gallon of coffee and two dozen donuts,” Squeal Street captain Bicycle Bobby told me. “We’d go, ‘What’s this for? We didn’t order this,’ and they’d say, ‘It’s free! Let us know if you want more.’

“And then around 2 PM they showed up with four large pizzas. We said, ‘What’s this for?’ and they told us, ‘We thought you might be tired of BBQ. Let us know if you want more pizzas!'”

Smokin’ Aces is a small BBQ championship with a lot of room to grow. Only about 500 people attended last year. However, those in the region should take note – the grand champion team receives a whopping $12,500 in prize money, and total prize money is over $40,000. Unlike BBQ Fest, the public does not have to pay to attend. It’s free. Booth sizes are bigger too – 40 x 40 for regular teams, and 20 x 20 for patio porker teams.

If one barbecue fest a year is not enough for you, Smokin’ Aces is your option to have a second one.

Pre-BBQ Fest cookout

Yesterday a few of us were hanging out at the Saucer as usual on Tuesday. We thought about heading north to trivia at Ferraro’s, but I pointed out, “I want to hang out with the out-of-town members of the BBQ team. They have arrived in town, and they don’t know to go to Ferraro’s.” We texted around, and an impromptu cookout on the rooftop of Barton Flats happened. Here are a few pics.

River view from the rooftop
Susan, Mikey and Uncle Paul discuss Mikey’s dog and her 10 puppies.
Nikki, Chad, team cook Willie, and team captain Chuck. Nikki told me, “I was first attracted to Chad when he ordered PBR.” I think that relationship is going to work.
Chad tells Clay, “You’ve got to try this curry with a bit of this hot lime pickle sauce.”
I had a bite of curry too and agree, it was pretty amazing. Here’s a pic of the lime pickle sauce in case anyone wants to try it at home.
A chicken in every pot
Willie Jr. throwing darts

The fun officially kicks off today at Friends & Family Night. I’ll start the afternoon at the Saucer as usual, then about 5 I’ll hop aboard one of Harrah’s shuttles and head to the fairgrounds.

Up early and nothing to do today except wash my team shirt and Grizzlies growl towel, so there will probably be more posts.

When you’re on a BBQ team, the work is never done

Today I volunteered to go over and help the BBQ team load tables and chairs. The Center for Southern Folklore was nice enough to let us borrow tables and chairs for the booth.

We had a heck of a time getting the trailer backed into Gayoso Alley.

After the loading was done, I went over to Barton Flats and helped stuff the team “swag bags” containing our T-shirts, wristbands, and guest passes.

Uncle Paul and Susan stuffing the bags
Swag bags
T-shirts and golf shirts waiting to be distributed

They’ll be taking the swag bags over to Bar None between 4 and 5 today. Team members can pick them up there.

Plans for tonight are to be determined. I’ll text people and figure out what’s going on; don’t want to post plans here since we have a pest who follows us. All I know is, I’ll be out late, hopefully I’ll be out with the BBQ team, and if anything interesting happens I’ll take pics.

Tomorrow is a very important day

Tomorrow is a big day. It’s load-in for the BBQ teams. Now, in past years I’ve had a very important and unique role on the team. “Paul, we need one team member to stay behind at the Saucer, and handle anything that comes up,” the team captains told me. Here’s a recap of what I did last year. On Saturday, first day of load-in, I had a key meeting with fountain of wisdom John D; I checked world financial news and thought how it might impact the Ques Brothers; and I met with a beverage consultant and ordered nine of her recommended beverages in 16-ounce amounts. I also gave advice to the captain of a new team. All of this could not be done anywhere but the Saucer.

When I heard that BBQ Fest had been moved to the fairgrounds, I talked to the our captains. “Surely you don’t need me to hold down the fort at the Saucer, when load-in is 5 miles away,” I protested. “I never get to have any fun at load-in. I’m ready to sweat, I’m ready to lift, I’m ready to get my hands dirty. I’m ready to work.”

The captains wouldn’t hear of it. “NO, Paul,” they told me firmly. “It is just too risky to leave the Saucer uncovered the entire day. We need you there. Now, you don’t have to stay the whole day. If you want to walk over to Bar None and show our sponsor some support by drinking a half yard of beer, that’s fine. Or if you want to spend a little time at Max’s gathering inside infomation on how to beat Squeal Street at cornhole, that’s good too. But most of the day, it is imperative – I can’t stress this enough, Paul – absolutely imperative that you be at the Saucer for load-in Sunday.”

The team has spoken, and I must obey.

On another note… where are my manners? Fourth post of the day and I haven’t mentioned the GRIZZLIES yet??? I have tickets, and the Grizzlies expert who doesn’t get invited to parties has confirmed that the start time is 4 PM. Going to make a stop by the Chris Vernon Show booth outside, and pick up a Z-Bo shirt, as well as Tony Allen shirt if they still have any left. For those not going, game will be broadcast on ESPN.

You may notice a different look to the blog this morning. I’m playing around with Google web fonts. There’s a plug-in for WordPress, giving bloggers over 100 font options, instead of just the dozen or so Web-safe options we’ve had for the past 15 years. Hope you enjoy the new look once I get it tweaked; for a while today it will be under construction.