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Food festival off to savory start
Brad Ross prepares pork skins Friday during the Que’n in Cumming event at the Cumming Fairgrounds. - photo by Autumn Vetter

The sounds of music set the stage for the festival, and the smells enticed the crowd, but the tastes are what really drew them there.

The two-day National BBQ Cup: Que’n in Cumming featured more than 100 teams cooking up their best recipes for judges and the general public. In its second year, the event at the Cumming Fairgrounds attracted more competitors than 2011.

Friday night featured live music and the side contests, while Saturday got to the meat of the competition — big prizes for barbecue pork, chicken, ribs and brisket.

A panel of judges, most of them certified by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, scored the entries for sauce, wings, Brunswick stew and desserts Friday night in the side contests.

Contest representative Phillip Brazier led the group of nearly 50 judges in taking an oath that they would score fairly and objectively.

“Judge it for what it is,” Brazier said. “It’s not what you like. It’s the quality of what it is.”

Dishing out competition dishes of Brunswick stew and chicken wings, Chelli Garrett said the first day has “more of a social scene.”

The competition wasn’t lacking, though, as she encouraged those tasting Memphis Belle BBQ to vote in the people’s choice.

Public voting Friday was a new feature this year.

Justin Cervantes took note of the team’s number after he came back for seconds of the wings.

“I stopped right there and said ‘That’s good,’” said Cervantes, who traveled from Woodstock for the event.

“Good” was a favorite word for festival-goers, including Forsyth County resident Mark Hagen and 7-year-old daughter Arianna as they sampled some chicken wings.

“We came to listen to some music,” Hagen said, “and eat some more.”

The teams preparing for the contests came from across the nation, from Forsyth and neighboring counties to as far away as Washington state.

Team Philly Blind Pig BBQ journeyed from Philadelphia to what Tom Bera called “one of the better events we go to.”

“We get to meet new people and see how we do against the rest of the country,” he said.

Photographer Autumn Vetter contributed to this report.