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The NASCAR concept is coming to the barbeque circuit.
That was the announcement made by Springfield-Washington County Chamber of Commerce President Mandy Sagrecy, along with former president Ralph Blandford.
Since stepping down as chamber president, Blandford has continued to work with the local barbeque committee, and serves as chair of the group’s public relations committee. Blandford said a new points system is coming to the Kentucky barbeque circuit which will crown an overall champion from the state’s Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) sanctioned events.
“It’s going to be an annual competition, and it will be very similar to what NASCAR does,” Blandford said, adding that the winners from each competition will earn points, and the top points winner from the circuit will receive the overall championship title. Although no name has been officially given to the overall competition, Blandford said it will definitely bear the name of Jim Beam.
“Jim Beam came up with $5,000, and we will be asking each participating event to come up with $200. All the money goes to the trophies and prize money,” Blandford explained, adding that the top prize for the overall winner is expected to be $7,000. That money will be in addition to any prize money won at the local competitions. Springfield’s local competition, known officially as The Jim Beam Barbeque Classic, provides a total of $10,000 in prize money.
The official ground rules have not been set yet, but Blandford said he is already working with sanctioned events in communities such as Munfordville, Owensboro, Louisville and Paducah, among others, to join the championship chase.
Although the starting location can vary, Blandford wants to see Springfield as the grand finale each year.
“By making initial contact with Jim Beam, I said I want it to end in Springfield. We want to do it on Saturday afternoon right up there on that stage, and anybody that’s going to be in the competition will have to be here to get the prize,” he said.
Besides working with the local barbeque event, Blandford said he has visited other states to see how they do barbeque. He visited Ohio and Indiana, and he said folks who participate in those events have recognized him from the Springfield barbeque contest.
“I have a lot of people come up and say, ‘I know you. You’re from Springfield. That is the best event we’ve ever been to.’ I’ve not heard one negative comment,” he said.
Sagrecy added that the past events have been so successful that local hotel rooms, including The Springfield Inn, The Lincoln Suites and Maple Hill Manor Bed and Breakfast are already sold out of rooms for this fall’s festival.
“We’ve got teams that are already registered and have paid their money for this year’s event,” she said. “We’re going to limit it to 35 teams. We don’t want to get above that.”
Blandford said when it comes to barbeque events, he hears a lot of talk about the Jack Daniels contests, but he pointed out that the Jim Beam sponsored events are the big ones, and the Jack Daniels events are not sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society.
“We don’t go to Jack Daniels. The winner of ours goes to Kansas City,” he said.
With three years of barbeque competitions under its belt, the local event looks to continue to be a draw for all of Washington County, bringing in tourists to eat at local restaurants, stay in local hotels and do business with other merchants.
“I think it’s going to bring some people to town, and it’s going to put us on the map even better,” Blandford said.