I have to apologize to anyone who was expecting
to see a new comment from me last Monday.
I wrote one but it was boring, so I trashed it.
Besides, I have been thinking about something for a long time
and I wanted to share it with you.
I needed more time to think and write, so this seemed like a
good time to do it. I
also want your feedback, on my ideas.
me your comments about this article.
You see I am really bothered by the comment
“BBQ contests will never be a spectator sport.”
Why can’t these contests draw huge crowds?
To answer this question we have to examine how the general
public views these events.
I have paid a lot of attention to the spectators
at BBQ contests over the last few years.
One year, at the American Royal contest in K.C., I did a lot of
“observing of the public.” I
hung around he information booth near the main entrance and listened
to what people were talking about.
I hung around so long that I am sure some people thought I was
some weirdo or something. What
did I learn? They were pissed. They
were mad because they had fought their way through a huge traffic jam,
paid to get in and didn’t get anything to eat.
Sure, there were some food vendors, like at a carnival.
Then there was the “to loud” country music band blasting
away. But, something was
missing and it wasn’t just the food.
At other contests, that were smaller, I have seen
the spectators at these events come and go.
These spectators didn’t know anyone competing and none of the
contestants would talk to them. I
know that all the contestants were busy.
The fact is, that the public who visit one of these events
don’t hang around long because there’s nothing to keep them there.
They didn’t know what is going at the contest. There isn’t
anybody to tell them what’s going on and there is no food unless you
want the stuff the vendors are selling.
After the spectators went home they watched the
evening news. At the contest they had seen a television cameraman
taking pictures. Maybe if
they watched the evening news they could learn more about the contest.
As it turns out there isn’t anything on the evening news about the
contest. You see the
cameraman didn’t know what was going on either. As a result the cameraman wasn’t able to tell the producer
what was going on, so the producer thought there wasn’t anything the
public would be interested in.
I know there are a lot of people who don’t want
anything to change at these contests.
I also know that there are a lot of people who would like to
see the public get more involved in the contests.
If this happens then the media would pay more attention. With more press coverage we would have more interest by
corporate sponsors. This
could generate big money coming into the contests.
Who knows what could happen next, but lets think
big for a moment. Lets
take a look into the future. It’s
now the year 2003 and BBQ is big business.
There are over 1,000 contests being held all over the country.
There are 20 major professional money events being held this
year. The average prize
money is $500,000 per event. There
are a couple hundred professional BBQ teams competing in the contests
of year 2003. All the pro
teams have logos of the corporate sponsors on their equipment and
clothes. The big professional contests draw an average of 50,000
spectators to each event. To
top it all off Food TV has a weekly program called the “Iron Chefs
of BBQ. It’s a smash
hit and is being broadcast all over the world.
The movie “BBQ Crazy” is a big box office hit.
It’s the story of the adventures of two men and a woman who
all compete separately in contests.
The movie is centered on the “Big National Contest” and
what they will do to win.
Back to today
Well maybe I am getting a bit carried away and
some of you might think the smoke has affected my brain.
However, I think some of this is possible. To move things forward I think some positive steps should be
taken now to draw the public in.
There are a lot of things we could do to make the contest more
interesting. I have
several ideas and they won’t end with this edition of “Ray’s
Comments.” I will share
them with all of you if you don’t think I’m too crazy.
You see deep down inside I am an “idea guy.’
I create things and I am a promoter.
Hell, if I were younger I would set my goal to be the “Don
King of BBQ.” Or I
would try to turn BBQ into something like the world wrestling deal.
To look at all of this from a more practical
standpoint the first thing I would do if I could change things is to
make the big contests more interesting to the general public.
I propose the complying and printing of a program to be sold to
the spectators at the contests. “You
can’t tell what’s going on without a program.”
This program would be printed just days before each events and
would contain such things as:
A brief history of BBQ
A complete list of the major events around the country.
A listing of the teams that are competing in that
contest. This listing
would have “human interest” information about each team.
This information could contain the names of the team members,
how the team was formed. There
could be pictures of the teams, contact information and past winning
records of the teams. The
bookies are going to need this information someday when there is
betting on these contests in Las Vegas.
A list of the prize money, won that year by the more
The contests could charge $5.00 or more for this
“Contest Guide.” The
“Contest Guide” would contain corporate advertising.
There would be a section on judging and an explanation
on what happens at a contest.
Next I would set up tours of the contest from a
central starting point and leaving every fifteen minutes or so.
These tour guides would take small groups (ten people) around
the contest and point out to the group what was going on.
Different BBQ celebrities could be introduced to the groups
during the tour. The
spectators could keep notes in the “Contest Guides” they had just
purchased. My vision of
these “tour leaders” who would conduct the tours is as follows: As
you guide the group around the contest you would point out to the
group each team you pass. You
would inform the group about what was happening at the time.
The tour leader could talk about the different equipment each
team is using and other information like the cost of the equipment
etc. There are a lot of things these tour leaders could talk about
and it wouldn’t take a lot to train each one of them. Just take them on a tour and have them take notes.
When these tours end I would somehow find a way
for the spectators to get a small sample of good BBQ.
It could be a small sample plate with one rib, chicken,
brisket, and pulled pork. You
could have samples of different sauces supplied by the manufactures.
You could give them a book of coupons on BBQ items.
Then at the end of the tour I would give them
tickets to see a video with even more information.
Maybe sell the video to them. The video might trace the
creation of a BBQ team to winning the big bucks. The video is about 45
I would cut down on the time it takes to present
the awards. I would make
the awards presentation a big deal.
There would be fireworks, music, lights etc. I also would drag
as many politicians and famous people into these major contests as
want to be seen by the public. The public wants to see famous people and now these contest
start making the evening news around the country.
Well, that’s just part of my vision.
I hope you find this stimulating.
I also hope you email
me with your suggestions on these proposals.
Next week I will have a list of the “best email” from
everyone about your suggestions on these ideas.
If all goes well we will, from time to time, continue the
discussion and maybe make something happen.
Or maybe, this will be the last you hear from me about this
Past Comments from Ray:
Review on the Grand Barbecue book and companion video
My Grandfather and his watch
Top Secret Rib Rub Review
The 100,000 message to the BBQ Forum
Some things I like
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