by Susan Mikula Campbell
There's nothing like a barbecue festival to set your taste buds on alert.
This weekend, wander down to Gateway Harbor in Tonawanda and take a deep breath of sauce, spices and grilling meat - the Smokin' Eagles International Barbecue Festival is back.
Technically, the gates open at 5 p.m. Friday, but Wheatfield resident Roy "Honcho" Gregory, who organized the first Smokin' Eagles five years ago, predicts "The place will be full by 5 p.m.; the barbecue fans, they can't wait!"
Admission is free at the three-day event for those who want to come in, watch the competitions, hear the bands, purchase barbecue equipment, sauces and rubs, and get some expertly prepared barbecue to eat there or take home. Vendors will be preparing barbecue, including some of the close to 20 competitors.
Florida Skin and Bones, a husband and wife team from Florida, that has won numerous competitions, including taking the grand champion crown at Smokin' Eagles last year, will be back to defend its title and also will be vending.
"They said they wouldn't miss it," said Gregory, who will go back for seconds of one of Skin and Bones' offerings. "Their ribs are crazy good ... must be why they win so much," he said.
Locally, the World of Barbecue from Parkside Avenue in Buffalo also is coming back to compete and vend.
The open competition is on Saturday with competitors barbecuing their best chicken, ribs, brisket and pork. Gates open at 9 a.m. The awards ceremony is at 5 p.m., and there will be music, food and fun until about 11 p.m. The back yard and kids barbecue competitions are on Sunday. Gates open at 9 a.m. and the awards ceremony is at 5:30 p.m.
There's also an apple pie competition on Saturday. Vendors and music will be available all three days.
Competitors are still signing up in the three categories, Gregory said, noting this year's competition will offer $4,000 in cash and prizes.
Rob Giordano of Lewiston, who owns the Barbecue Shop Inc. and co-chairs the competition with Gregory, notes that in previous competitions, top prize in the open category was a trip to the Best of the Best competition in Georgia. That competition was cancelled this year, but Smokin' Eagles is negotiating an alternative for next year, he said.
Giordano also noted the Smokin' Eagles has received its nonprofit 501(C) 3 designation from the IRS, which will let it move forward in donating proceeds from the event to charity.
For more information about the Aug. 10 to 12 barbecue festival, go to www.sebbq.com.