The 2011 edition of Cullman Oktoberfest was already going to look a lot different than previous years — with alcohol sales expected at the Rotunda, and a downtown shopping night planned — but organizers hope one new event can bring additional buzz to the decades old festival.
The first-ever Oktoberfest BBQ cook-off, a sanctioned Kansas City BBQ event, is slated for the closing weekend of Oktoberfest on Oct. 8 at the Cullman County Fairgrounds. Admission is $5 at the gate.
Organizer Steve Cooke said more than 40 teams have signed on to compete, with more joining each day.
“The response has been really great,” he said. “We’re just at 40 now, but I picked up a few more applications today that have come in, and we’re still taking entries.”
In addition to the BBQ competition, Cooke said numerous other festivities are also planned for the event.
“We’re going to have a lot of people there, with several different teams and things going on throughout the day,” he said. “We’re planning a kids’ zone, run by [area churches] and they’ll offer games, face painting, and vacation bible school-type things. We’re really trying to create an old-time country fair atmosphere, where there’s something for everyone who shows up, with country and bluegrass bands.”
Every attendee will have a chance to judge a blind taste test contest, with the winning team being crowned with the People’s Choice Award.
“That will help keep the public more involved, so they can participate, vote and have a role,” Cooke said. “We’re raising scholarship money for kids in Cullman County, and we want to keep it growing. The public gets to vote just like a Kansas City BBQ judge, and a lot of times folks can’t even finish because they’re full before they get to the end.”
Grilling demonstrations are also scheduled, and numerous food and merchandise vendors will be on hand throughout the day. A beer garden is also being set up across the way from the festival in the National Guard armory parking lot.
“We’re going to have a lot of different vendors, with a lot of food, funnel cake, shaved ice, Coke vendors and just a ton of different things,” Cooke said. “We even have gymnastic groups coming up for demonstrations, the Southern Starlets, and this gives those groups a way to practice their routines and rehearse in front of their families and friends, to show what they can do.”
Organizers hope to feed on the momentum of Oktoberfest, by establishing the cook-off as an annual bookend event to the festival.
“We chose the name Oktoberfest to help bring recognition and attention to our hometown, and really to try and draw more folks into Cullman,” he said. “We hope that after they leave our event they can come on in to downtown and shop and support some of our local businesses.”
As for the economic effect, Cullman Economic Development Agency retail recruiter Susie Hood said the event could be a major boon, offering a new twist on the traditional Oktoberfest events.
“It will just be huge, because all those teams and reps will need hotel rooms for two days, counting prep time, and they’ll be eating at our restaurants,” she said. “Plus, when the events start on Saturday, the families of those travel teams will be able to go downtown and look around. We’ll have transportation available throughout the day.”
WHAT: Oktoberfest BBQ Competition.
WHEN: October 8.
WHERE: Cullman County Fairgrounds.
HOW MUCH: $5 at the gate.
TO COMPETE: Call Susie Hood at (256) 775-7233; e-mail Steve Cooke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COMPETITION FEE: Pro team: $250, back yard team: $125.
* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.