MEMPHIS, Tenn — The internationally renowned Memphis in May Barbecue Cooking Contest was sold out this year because of the reduced capacity this year due to COVID.
Saturday was beautiful day to barbecue and what keeps teams coming year after year is the cooking of course but also the camaraderie.
An excellent view of the river, whole hogs, ribs and shoulder pork and sauces galore were on hand this year at the cooking contest
It's been serving up delicious barbecue since the seventies.
"When we get through with all this we're going to feed this hog to everybody coming by," said Mark Wheeler, with DOB cooking team.
Annesdale Pork is named after the neighborhood Annesdale Park. The team is comprised of residents of family of people who live in that area.
"We get together and it's like a family reunion every year we spend the week together," said Andy Barré. "We work hard, we play hard."
Frank Horner who has been judging since the 90s says BBQ fans can get the full cooking contest experience through a VIP pass.
"To me it's the coolest experience in the park if you're not a team member someone coming in from out of town," said Horner. "It's called a VIPit program. People see it on the Food Network or the travel shows or whatever about Memphis in may they want to come but they don't know a team they can't get in."
With COVID-19 precautions, 2021 is a smaller year than usual. Capacity is limited to 9,500 per day. Usually on a solid day 20,000 would fill Tom Lee Park.
There are also fewer teams competing to meet health department requirements.
"It's eerie kind of an eerie feeling every night," said Jim Woolfe, the head cook for team Swine and Dine. "There's not as many people walking around but we're back to like almost normal which is really nice."
For TV pit master Moe Cason it's an unforgettable experience.
"It's like my favorite cookoff," Cason said. "I've done a lot of cookoffs over the years. I always enjoy Memphis in May, it's a great time down here man. The ambiance the beautiful Mississippi River."