MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - For four days, more than 200 teams will be in Downtown Memphis cooking barbecue in the hopes of being named the winner of the 2018 World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.
The air in Tom Lee Park is thick with delicious aromas. Gates opened Thursday afternoon, and the mouthwatering smells are already plentiful.
The teams come from 22 states and four countries. They're battling for bragging rights and a $117,000 first place prize.
"We took this thing in 2015, so we are back with a vengeance," Brad Orrison with The Shed Barbecue and Blues Joint said. "This is an old '52 Willis Jeep that we have manipulated over the years to be what is now a world championship whole hog cooker."
Whether it's re-purposed cars, lucky aprons, or secret ingredients, every team has something they think will put them above the competition.
"The one ingredient that you would probably never think of that we use, as far as the injections goes is apricots," Mike Pittman with Curly Tail Smokers said.
The teams are going at it in several different categories, including pork shoulder, whole hog, pork rib, and patio porkers.
This year, visitors will be able to get their hands on some of the world-class barbecue!
For years, one of the biggest complaints from visitors to the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is there isn't BBQ unless you know someone in the competition.
"For 40 years if you came down to the barbecue contest, there was no place to enjoy the barbecue unless you knew a team. So the general public was kind of left out in the cold," Robert Griffin, Memphis in May Media Coordinator, said.
That's not the case anymore, thanks to BBQ Alley.
"Championship quality BBQ restaurants from out of town who've come here to serve BBQ to the general public. It's fantastic food in addition to sides like mac & cheese, baked beans, collard greens--all these traditional great sides that you expect with BBQ," Griffin said.
No one leaves BBQ Alley with empty bellies, we're told, with generous portions given out by four vendors. But don't wait to buy these tickets.
"They sold out last year so we expect to see the same thing this year. The online sales have been tremendous. The gate sales will probably be just as strong," Griffin said.
So while 225 teams are competing to take home bragging rights, you can enjoy top-notch champion level BBQ right alongside them.
The gates open for BBQ Alley on Thursday at 2 p.m.
Your $15 ticket only buys you access to BBQ Alley during a specified two-hour window.