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Big time barbeque arrives Saturday

Talkin’ barbeque, local chef Melvin Pierce, left, got a tour Thursday of the mobile kitchen setup Gary Lewis will use to compete in the Big Blue Barbeque event Saturday at the Shelby County Fairgrounds which is free and open to the public. Pierce and other local vendors will be on hand withfood and beverages to purchase.

By JOHN WALKER - jwalker@shelbynews.com

To get an idea of the level of grill masters who will compete in the Big Blue Barbeque event on Saturday, consider that many of the spaces reserved for their rigs measure 20 by 50 feet.

So it’s probably a good thing the competition is taking place at the Shelby County Fairgrounds, 500 Frank St. where there’s plenty of open ground.

A total of 28 teams are set to compete in the barbeque event which is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society.

The Shelby County Tourism & Visitors Bureau organized the day-long competition which is a first for the tourism group, and a first for the barbeque society.

“My KCBS rep’s been bragging that this is the first time eight states will be represented at a first-time event,” said Rachael Ackley, executive director of Shelby County tourism.

Big Blue Barbeque will also include music, a $500 first prize karaoke competition, and an extreme Frisbee meet at the adjacent Blue River Memorial Park.

At the fairgrounds on Thursday, Gary Lewis and his wife, Shirley, were the first competitors to arrive.

They’re the Farmer’s Retreat Family Barbeque Team and just sort of fell into it, Gary said.

“I retired and my son got me a smoker,” said Gary.

After cooking for a large family at their get togethers, the Lewis’ took the plunge two years later and in 2013 began competing using the proverbial secret family recipe, a third-generation recipe at that.

So what’s their specialty?

“Our best category would be ribs,” Gary said. “Our nemesis is chicken,” he confided.

The team gets its name from the community where they live, Farmer’s Retreat, a small, unincorporated town in far southwestern Indiana.

Gary and his wife go to 10 to 13 barbeque competitions each year, he said, and they’re very fortunate. They’ve been invited to compete in three upcoming events, including the Jack Daniels World Championship this October in Lynchburg, Tenn.

“The difference is, they’re invitational,” said Gary.

However, despite the high-level fierce competition, the best part of the contests is the friends they’ve made, he noted.

“It’s the people,” Gary said.

The Big Blue Barbeque is due to kick off at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the local fairgrounds and continue until 9 p.m. Attendance is free.

More information is available online at www.bigbluebarbeque.com.