BBQ events could expand

-A A +A
By Jesse Osbourne

The Jim Beam BBQ Classic held at Springfield’s Harvest Festival could expand in a big way soon.
The event, according to coordinator Ralph Blandford, has been a huge success so far.

“According to (people at Jim Beam), they’ve gotten great exposure, and they’re very satisfied with what we’ve done,” he said.
That event has led to the Jim Beam Bluegrass Showdown, a series of six or seven barbeque competitions throughout the state. Points are accumulated for teams throughout the season, similar to NASCAR racing. In 2012, the grand finale of those events happens in Springfield at the Harvest Festival.
Three winners will be awarded, and will share $6,000.
Blandford said the most recent expansion is only one of hopefully many.
“What I proposed to Jim Beam is that we stretch out and try to include 12 states to start with,” Blandford said.
The competitions would end around the same time as each other. For instance, competitions in Ohio and Kentucky would finish up around the same date. Then, the top three teams from each state would be invited for a ‘mega showdown,’ as Blandford said, in Springfield.
“That is our plan right now, and I don’t see that changing for a while, unless we outgrow (Springfield as a final venue),” he said. “If it goes good, then we will be reaching out for other states.”
Blandford said the potential states on the barbeque circuit would include Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Missouri.
“We feel like barbeque  is on the rise, and we feel like it’s going to be that way for the next 10 years,” he said. “This is a good thing for Jim Beam, as well as Springfield.”
He said he is in the process of putting together a budget for the 12-state proposition.  
“I will send this to my contact at Jim Beam,” he said. “He pretty much knows what I’m going to send him. He will look at it, and then we will present it to marketing, and we’ll meet with Jim Beam again and hopefully get the go-ahead.”
Blandford said if he gets the go-ahead, the first mega showdown could occur in 2013.
He said he’s already laid groundwork with contacts in other states. If he gets a green light, he’ll notify his contacts and they’ll help him work their states.