2005 Madison Ribberfest Pro Division

Sibling rival heats up among pro cookers

Cincinnati brothers' teams evoke Elvis, Irish

By Levi King
Staff Writer

MADISON, Ind. (Aug. 12, 2005) –  The Madison Ribberfest’s pro division cook-off will once again pit Cincinnati’s Donnellon brothers against one another in fierce but friendly competition. The Smokin’ Irish, a team consisting of brothers Tom and Terry Donnellon, return to the Madison riverfront this year with the Smokin’ Elvises, a team led by brothers Steve and Dan Donnellon.

Tom Donnellon

Photo by Don Ward

Tom Donnellon of Cincinnati prepares
meat for judging at the 2002 Ribberfest.

The elder Donnellon brothers, Steve and Dan, have been competing in barbecue events for nearly a decade. Along with friends Bill Sloat and Steve Goldman, they settled on the name Smokin’ Elvises six years ago. All four team members are Elvis fans, so the theme was an easy choice. In fact, to become a Smokin’ Elvis, the Donnellons insist that a cooker first visit Elvis Pressley’s home at Graceland.
“Dan makes a big production of it,” said Steve, laughing. “Last year he drove up in his convertible wearing the full jumpsuit. Then he nearly broke his leg falling out of the car.”
Don’t be fooled by the display, though. The Elvises take their barbecuing seriously, and the motif plays into their culinary style. The team cooks Memphis-style barbecue using sweet sauces and dry rubs. The team will even forgo Elvis Week in Memphis for the third time this year in order to attend Madison Ribberfest. The annual Memphis event, which surrounds the Aug. 16 anniversary of The King’s death, gathers fans from around the world to celebrate his life and music.
The Smokin’ Elvises compete in four to six events each year and have traveled to the “World Series” of barbecue, the Kansas City Barbeque Society’s American Royal in Kansas City. More than 400 teams attend the annual event, but only state champions can compete for the national title. The Elvises did not vie for the title, but they did attend the KCBS judging class to glean useful information about what the judges look for at a cook-off.

Smokin' Elvises

Photo by Don Ward

Steve Donnellon of the Smokin' Elvises.

Tom Donnellon of the Smokin’ Irish first got involved in barbecuing several years ago when he traveled with Steve to Indianapolis’ BBQ-lossal. There, they volunteered as “Pig Police,” testing the temperatures of entries. The sights and smells of the contest piqued Tom’s interest, and he was fortunate to meet Ray Lampe, a.k.a. “Dr. BBQ,” and learn a few of his tricks.
Tom teamed with brother, Terry, and friend, Bill Palmisano, eight years ago, and the Smokin’ Irish were born. The team competes at only two contests each year – Ribberfest and the Ohio KCBS State Championship.
The younger Donnellon brothers have a closely guarded secret ingredient. “It relates to our name, but that’s all we’ll tell you,” said Tom. Whatever it is, it seems to work, as the Irish have won first place in every category except sauce at least once. Last year, they took 12th in the overall competion.
The Smokin’ Irish team members are serious when the time to submit their portions nears, but the team finds time to enjoy the events. Tom explained that the “slow and low” method of barbecuing makes it a long process with plenty of down time for socializing.
“We have a lot of fun meeting people and joking around – especially with the Elvises,” Tom said. “When the judges come around, I’ll stop them and say ‘You better watch that team there – I think they’re using gas.’ ”


KCBS Pro Division Teams
(Entries as of 8-11-05)

Aunt Moomoo’s BBQ, John Hurst, Martinsville, Ind.
Bar-B-Cuisine, Jim Weeks, Valparaiso, Ind.
Bar-B-Quau, Mike Wozniak, Brimfield, Ill.
Blind Rooster Seasonings, Brian Richardson, Columbus, Ind.
Brian’s Rib Shack, Brian Willig, Terre Haute, Ind.
Bucksnort BBQ, Brian Whitmore, Brownsburg, Ind.
Bucky McOinkum’s, Curt McAdams, Waynesville, Ohio
Cabana Joe’s, Joe Torline, Madison
Chicago Smoke, J. Staggs, Chicago, Ill.
Chubby Bubby BBQ, Ray Roberts, Louisville, Ky.
Dr. Chuckie’s BBQ, Charles Henk, Ada, Mich.
DJ Barbeque, John E. Jackson, Madison
Falls City Smokers, Wendell Thomas, Smithfield, Ky.
Frankie’s BBQ, Frank Jones, Evansville, Ind.
Getta Que BBQ, Buddy Schneider, Fairborn, Ohio
Governor’s BBQ, Gary Roberts, Nashville, Tenn.
Great Lakes BBQ, Ford Alison, Sparta, Mich.
Grill Sergeants, George Givens, Indianapolis
Huckleberry’s Smoke Therapy, Allen Shealy, Sheffield Lake, Ohio
Hogheads BBQ, Danny Broughton, Pittsboro, Ind.
Hoosier Hogs, Fred Edwards, Valparaiso, Ind.**
Indiana BBQ Co., John Richert, Indianapolis
Insane Charcoal Posse, Jay Maxey, Huntingburg, Ind.
Jimmy’s Hog Pen, Jim Weaver, Centerville, Ohio
J-Mack Cookers, Aaron Storey, Bardwell, Ky.
Kingpins Smokehouse, David Siefker, North Vernon, Ind.
Miss Piggy’s, Bryan Gresham, Seymour, Ind.
Moonswiners, Chad Hayden, Taylorsville, Ky.
Music City Pig Pals, Lee McWright, Nashville, Tenn.**
Pepperitaville, Connie Trobaugh, Kokomo, Ind.
Pig Pak, Mike Deshong, Lexington, Ind.
Pit Sniffers, Rich Allen, Westfield, Ind.
Seeing Double BBQ, Don Schmidt, Lexington, Ky.
Shigs-In-Pit, Todd Grantham, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Smoke Break BBQ, Tom Cuneo, Columbus, Ind.
Smoked Signals, Doug Spiller, Madison
Smoke’N Brew, Brian Gresham, Seymour, Ind.
Smokin’ Elvises, Steve Donnellon, Cincinnati
Smokin’ Irish, Tom Donnellon, Cincinnati
Smokin’ Ribz BBQ, Vee Ferguson, Indianapolis
Smokin’ T’s, Troy Heitmeyer, Mt. Vernon, Ill.
Snake Pit BBQ, Jeff Toler, Carmel, Ind.
Squealing Good BBQ, David Snyder, Cedar Lake, Ind.
Sunset Smokers, Monty Anderson, Floyds Knobs, Ind.
Sweetness of Hog, Gene Johnson, Oaland, Tenn.
The BBQ Guy.com, Brian Pearcy, Plymouth, Mich.
Two Little Pigs, John Byrd, Tenn.
Ribrunners, Ron Yater, Indianapolis
Rolling Smoke, Jim Ferguson, Fairborn, Ohio
Wild Bill-BQ, Bill Sharp, Lakewood, Ohio
Wildcat BBQ, Chris Cammack, Madison
Voodoo BBQ, Dennis Higgs, NA
Zack’s, Mike Weeks, Franklin, Tenn.
ZZ-Que, Robert Creech, Columbus, Ind.

** = Past Grand Champion
Madison-based teams in Bold.

For more information or to order tickets, call the Madison Area Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-559-2956 or visit: www.madisonribberfest.com.

Back to 2005 Ribberfest Articles.



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