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Windy City BBQ Classic Grows In Size For Year Three

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Sep 30, 2014 8:30PM

The Windy City BBQ Classic, once only a dream in the eyes of co-founders Gary Wiviott (Barn & Company pitmaster) and Jared Leonard (pitmaster at Rub BBQ Company), continues to grow as it enters its third year. This year’s event at Soldier Field’s south parking lot was pushed back from Labor Day weekend to Oct. 11 to free up the schedules of interested participants who otherwise would have spent their time smoking meats low and slow for their families and friends.

The change of date proved to be fruitful. This year’s event will feature 40 competing teams, double last year’s number, all of them using wood or charcoal to determine who makes the best ribs, brisket, chicken and pork shoulder and more than $14,000 in prize money. The number of restaurants and professional caterers has also grown, to over 30, who will provide guests with tasty BBQ bites. Live music from the likes of Liz Mandeville, Shirley King, Dave Spector and Lurrie Bell will entertain the guests, Lagunitas Brewing is back as the festival’s beer sponsor and Virtue Cider will be pouring their tastes from the orchards. As Wiviott said, that’s a lot of BBQ, beer, music and large sweaty men with knives.

Another goal for the festival realized by Wiviott and Leonard is the overall grand champion automatically qualifying to compete in the Jack Daniels World Championship in Tennessee later this year, thanks to Gov. Pat Quinn declaring the Windy City BBQ Classic the official state championship. Throughout the competition, guests will be able to interact with the competing teams as they prepare their meats for the judging panel.

Proceeds from the festival will benefit Operation BBQ Relief, a nonprofit that provides money for the ongoing relief efforts in Joplin, Missouri, from a May 2011 EF5 tornado that killed over 140 people. Leonard and Wiviott hope to raise $7,500 for Operation BBQ Relief.

Tickets for the Windy City BBQ Classic are available at the festival’s website and come in three tiers. General admission is $49 and includes all-you-can-eat BBQ samples. VIP admission ($79) includes all-you-can-eat BBQ and beer. Premium status ($99) gets you all of the above, free bloody marys, premium seating and one-hour early admission to the festival. It’s recommended you buy tickets ahead of time; the prices will increase on the day of the festival.