As a nation, we are obsessed with food. Doubters need look no farther than the immense popularity of televised cooking shows for proof.
As Southerners, we are passionate about barbecue, as evidenced by the number of vehicles parked at hole-in-the-wall ’cue joints across the South.
Given an obsession with food and a passion for barbecue, what better recipe for a destination tourist event than a nationally recognized cooking competition?
Cumming got its first taste of the National BBQ Cup: Que’n in Cumming earlier this month, and it was enough to leave mouths watering for more.
By all accounts the barbecue competition at the Cumming Fairgrounds, recognized as a sanctioned event by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, was a huge success. The first-time event drew competitors from 21 states and saw nearly 100 professional cooking teams in competition, as well as dozens of backyard amateurs.
By the end of the two-day event, some 12,000 visitors had been to the fairgrounds as cooks, vendors or paying guests. Considering that this was an inaugural effort, the response was phenomenal.
Credit for the success has to go to the event’s organizers, Randall, Pam and Jerry Bowman, who more than a year ago conceived of the competition as a potentially rewarding addition to the local event schedule. Proceeds from the event are earmarked for local nonprofit groups, including the Forsyth Community Connection, Bald Ridge Lodge and Jesse’s House.
And while it was their baby, the Bowmans certainly weren’t alone in making the competition a success.
Hundreds of others got involved, including Nicole Morgan of Community Connection, who amassed an army of some 200 volunteers to help stage the competition. State Rep. Mark Hamilton worked to get a proclamation recognizing the event signed by Gov. Nathan Deal, and of course Cumming city officials helped to make it a huge success with their support and use of the fairgrounds.
The professionals who tour on the cooking circuit raved about the fairgrounds as a venue, which is sure to help in building the field for next year’s competition.
There certainly were lessons learned and areas to improve upon, as you would expect from the initial effort in any such venture, but all in all Que’n in Cumming passed the taste test for those involved.
Given the success this year, the potential for years to come seems to be huge. If the city, county and chamber get behind promoting an annual competition as a travel destination and tourist attraction for visitors, there could be a powerful economic impact on the community. Not to mention the chance to sample some fine food.
Kudos to all for bringing a taste of something new and different to town. We’re already looking forward to next year.