2005 Madison Ribberfest Backyard BBQ Blast

Local amateurs mix cooking, fun
Sena family goes head-to-head in competition

By Levi King
Staff Writer

MADISON, Ind. (Aug. 12, 2005) – Cincinnati brothers Nick and Don Sena came to the Madison Ribberfest four years ago for the blues but stayed for the barbecue. The two found out about the festival on the Internet and entered the Backyard BBQ Blast, an amateur cooking competition.

Don Sena

Photo by Don Ward

Don Sena of Cincinnati celebrats his 2002
"Best Sauce" award at the Ribberfest.

Their team won an award for the Best Original Sauce and placed third in the game-other meats category. Nick and the large Sena family, composed of 10 brothers and sisters, now attend the event each year.
“We like to get together as a family and cook and play cards,” said Nick. Because the family is so large, some members have formed their own teams and created competition within the family. Gina and Traci Sena, Nick’s sisters, enter pork and poultry from their team, Little Sisters BBQ, while Don has formed Sena Family BBQ and Nick created Nick’s Pit BBQ.
“I’ll be making the deer meat this year,” said Nick. “It’s a big crowd pleaser. You either love it or hate it.”
Members of the Sena family hope the judges are enamored with their barbecue.
Judging by professional and amateur judges will begin at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19. Entries will be judged on flavor, tenderness, texture and appearance. Teams have the opportunity to enter their special recipes into five different categories: ribs, pork, beef, poultry and game-other meats. In addition, each team has the opportunity to be awarded any of the following special awards: Best Original Sauce, Best Original Spice Rub, Best BBQ Team and The People’s Choice Award (determined by donation).
Nick Sena

Photo by Don Ward

Nick Sena (right) celebrates his team's 2002 title.

Last year, 42 teams from around the country showed up to participate in the Backyard BBQ Blast. Teams gathered for a good time and great barbecue. Visitors came to sample the food and enjoy the entertainment. Though only 33 teams are confirmed for this year, just as many teams are expected to show up by the time the festival begins on Aug. 19-20. Many are attracted to the competition because of the friendly atmosphere.
The competitors bring different sauces, rubs, methods of cooking and cookers. Some teams, such as ACME BBQ, have taken the time to customize their cookers. ACME BBQ converted a normal automobile into what team member Joe Craig jokingly refers to as the “pig truck.” Craig, last year’s overall winner of the event, says that even his team may be ready to move to the professional competition next year. “It’s a real light-hearted fun competition atmosphere. I don’t know if there is such a thing as bad BBQ,” said Craig.
Kevin Phelps, who moved to the area in 2002 from Las Vegas, Nev., has been barbecuing for more than 20 years. Phelps first competed in the event last year with his team, Hairy’s Hawgs, and said he enjoyed the competition. He said some people take it more seriously than others.
“It was a lot of fun even though there was serious competition. I’m a pretty serious ribs and brisket cooker,” said Phelps.

Joe Craig

Photo by Don Ward

Joe Craig checks the grill temperature.

Despite any difficulties, Hairy’s Hawgs won Best Original Sauce for their special recipe. Phelps claims the secret sauce contains honey. After Hairy’s Hawgs’ debut last year, Phelps said his team is ready to consistently win. “I’ll be better prepared this year,” said Phelps.
Although competition is tough, camaraderie and learning are a big part of the event. Mark Auxier and his team, Curly Tail Squealers, compete every year for “local bragging rights” but try to learn something new each year. Compared to when he first began competing, Auxier said he has made great improvements.
“I’ve learned a lot about what true barbecue is,” said Auxier.
Before the competition, Auxier practices different recipes for his friends and family to taste test. “Fun is the key. It’s all for fun. If we win something, it’s icing on the cake for us. We try not to take it too seriously, but we keep coming back.”

Mark Auxier

Photo by Don Ward

Mark Auxier prepares an entry in the Blast.

The Ribberfest committee has taken time this year to aid in the learning process by offering barbecuing tips via WORX radio. The eight -week segment covered topics such as buying meats and various marinades. “The Backyard BBQ Blast is light on competition, heavy on fun,” said Steve Thomas, contest chairman. “We don’t judge as severely as the pro teams. It’s all about having fun.”
Thomas added, “I’m really looking forward to seeing improvement. We try to help people with organization. We really made great effort to teach people about barbecue. We hope it pays off for people. The more they understand the better it is for everybody.”
Thomas said he expects this year’s competition to directly reflect past contests. “We’re growing well and doing good things, so why fix the door that isn’t broken?”
The Backyard BBQ Blast, sponsored by the Madison Courier, gives competitors a welcoming environment in which to gather. Thomas said this amateur competition is different from others in the area because of its participants. “I think as far as amateurs go, these guys know what they’re doing. Many are as good as the pros. We hear it from the judges all the time,” he said.

Backyard BBQ Blast
(Entries as of 8-11-05)

Daddy Bob’s; Jennifer Thompson; Madison, Ind.
Liquid Smoke; Roger Mogg; Spiceland, Ind.
Life is Good; Dawn Reynolds; Bluffton, Ind.
ACME BBQ; Joe Craig; Madison, Ind.
Smoke-in-Laws; Emmett Charles; Martinsville, Ind.
Barking Pig BBQ; Tim Mangan; Madison, Ind.
Dawg & Dawgettes; Kent Byrd; New Albany, Ind.
Don Sena; Don Sena; Cincinnati
Nick’s Pit; Nick Sena; Cincinnati
Hoosier Crawdaddys; Doug Searcy; Straughn, Ind.
Hog Rock; MaryAnn Bennett; Hanover, Ind.
Little Sisters BBQ; Traci Sena, Cincinnati
Madison Porkopolis; Vincent Gordon; Madison, Ind.
B&B BBQ Factory; Brad Lucas, Hope, Ind.
Docs Backyard Grub, Merrill Simmerman, Indianapolis, Ind.
Rich & Three Little Pig; Rich Geglein; Madison, Ind.
Blowin Smoke; Wayne Walker, Allendale, Ill.
Up in Smoke; Michael Fox; Monroe, Ohio
Butt Rubbers BBQ; Chris Elrod; Shelbyville, Ind.
Hungry Hoosiers; Nick Kelp; Bloomington, Ind.
Lerch’s BBQ; Dan Breske; Syracuse, Ind.
Smokin Dawgs; Jack Barnes; Lexington, Ind.
Smokin Apple; Don Apple; Greenfield, Ind.
Ridgerunners; Terry Davis; Raywick, Ky.
Hairy’s Hawgs; Kevin Phelps; Hanover, Ind.
Hickory Flats BBQ; Paul Everman; Versailles, Ind.
Frick & Frack; Jim Hart; Madison, Ind.
Jake Stuart; Jake Stuart; Madison, Ind.
Curly Tail BBQ; Mark Auxier, Madison, Ind.
Calvary BBQ; Mark Auxier, Madison, Ind.
Olivia & Logans Fin; Roger Kavanaugh; Versailles, Ind.
Hackeyland BBQ; Dennie Hackney; Madison, Ind.
Little York Rascals; Todd Chandler; Scottsburg, Ind.
Madison Porkopolis; Richard Scott; Madison, Ind.
Kiyote Kountry; Gilbert Black; Hanover, Ind.


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

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