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Official contest merges music, barbecued meat
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Brenau Barbecue & Banjos
What: Memphis Barbecue Network competition with bluegrass music
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Brenau Amphitheater, 500 Washington St., Gainesville
How much: $5
More info: 800-252-5119

Backyard braggarts and barbecue professionals will start setting up their smokers today for the first Brenau Barbecue & Banjos on Brenau University's campus.

The pros and amateurs will be cooking up ribs, Boston butt, whole hogs and pig shoulders, hoping for a win at the Memphis Barbecue Network-sanctioned competition.

The festival starts today as professional cooks with the Memphis Barbecue Network get into town and start setting up around Brenau's amphitheater. Local professionals and amateurs may set up Friday, and, depending on the recipe, some will start cooking Friday, too. Judging is Saturday.

"We have 17 (contestants) in backyard braggarts, our local cookers and professionals," said Jim Barco, Brenau senior vice president for institutional development. "The professionals come from as far away as Columbus, Miss. We have judges coming in from eight states, and these are people who have been judging barbecue contests for years.

"These are people who had to go to a barbecue training class to learn how to judge."

The Memphis Barbecue Network defines barbecue as pork cooked by wood or charcoal. It cannot be precooked, injected or marinated, among other rules.

One special contestant will be Myron Mixon of Vienna, according to Barco.

"His team is known as Jack's Old South," Barco said. "He has won Memphis in May twice before, and that's the Super Bowl of barbecue. He's won over 140 of these contests; he's a legend. ... Some of the cookers will come just to try and beat him."

Local barbecue extraordinaire Duane Fry will enter the backyard braggart division with his Boston butt and ribs.

"I am cooking Boston butt and ribs, and I will also be entering the People's Choice portion ... entering all three," said Fry, a member of the local barbecue competition team called the Smokin' Chili Cops. Fry, two-time winner of the Dearing Hamburger Cook-off in South Georgia, said he will start cooking Friday night and put his ribs on Saturday morning.

Winners in the professional division have a chance to win $1,200 in three categories; the backyard braggarts can win up to $300 in two categories. The People's Choice award will be a competition that includes the pros and amateurs and has a grand prize of $500.

The fundraising event not only features mouth-watering barbecue but also local bluegrass music.

"The Musselwhite Family, The Hoyles, Highway 362, each will be playing two 50-minute sets," said Barco, who added there will be samplings of barbecue and adult beverages.

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