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This weekend: In its second year, BBQ Jamboree is growing

MORE: Read more news from Fredericksburg

Could Fredericksburg be on its way to status as a major East Coast destination for competitive barbecue?

James Sharon and Jeremy Bullock are working hard to try to make that happen, and you can gauge their progress by attending this weekend’s BBQ Jamboree at the Fredericksburg Fairgrounds.

In its second year, this event will feature nearly three times more barbecue teams than last year, a grand prize purse that has more than doubled, and a connection with TLC’s “BBQ Pitmasters.”

This year’s event is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, a status Sharon and Bullock achieved for the event after last year’s jamboree.

“They are pretty much the end-all, be-all as far as barbecue competitions are concerned,” Sharon said. The governor’s office has also designated this as a “state championship” event, meaning the winner will have a chance to be chosen to compete in the Jack Daniels World Championship barbecue competition.

The event runs from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. Saturday at the Fredericksburg Fairgrounds. Admission for anyone over 12 is $10, but you can get $1 off the ticket price if you bring a canned good for the Salvation Army, the charity beneficiary of this year’s event.

The main event for the cooking teams is the KCBS-sanctioned contest, which awards a $5,500 cash prize. Thirty teams–most of them from Virginia, others from New Jersey, Texas and North Carolina–will compete.

Entrants include Tuffy Stone, who runs barbecue restaurants in Richmond and other locations. Stone leads the barbecue team “Cool Smoke,” and has competed on TLC’s “BBQ Pitmasters.”

Cooking teams will arrive as early as Thursday to set up their mobile kitchens and start working their magic. Cooking must stop by  noon on Saturday, when teams will be judged on their chicken, ribs, pork and brisket by a blind panel of KCBS-sanctioned barbecue judges.

Pitmasters can cook in any barbecue style they choose. Winners will be announced during the event.

While the big money is in the KCBS portion of the event, the thing that’s likely to get you there on Saturday is the People’s Choice contest, which is all about the pig.

All 28 teams will be given an identical portion of pork to cook for this contest. During an allotted time, attendees will be able to sample barbecue from all teams–supplies are limited, so arrive early–and vote on their favorite.

Rounding out the day are activities for kids, including face-painting, a moon bounce, barrel train and the Home Depot kids’ workshop, and free cornhole boards set up for kids of all ages.

Teams representing the Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg sheriff’s offices and the Rappahannock Regional Jail will compete in a 90-second rib-eating contest on-stage, and Steve Jarrell and Friends and the Heart of Virginia Cloggers will provide live entertainment throughout the day.

Sharon said he hopes to keep building the event each year. He and Bullock are hoping for 1,500 to 2,000 attendees this year. For next year, he said they are already talking to a carnival midway operator, and could be looking to expand the event to cover multiple days, and be more of a fair with a barbecue competition attached to it.

The BBQ Jamboree was conceived as a way to bring another event to the Fredericksburg Fairgrounds. Sharon and Bullock drew up a five-year plan to gradually build the event into what they hope will become an attraction with a wide following.

“We hope to pass everybody on the East Coast,” as far as barbecue competitions go, he said. “And we’re well on our way.”