Grillers take stage at Liverpool festival

Morning Journal/Stephanie Ujhelyi The line to Bad Axe of Hammondsville, a former Festival winner, was brisk as they were greeted and served quickly.

More than 10 competitors are set to face off this weekend for the title of grand champion during the third annual Ceramic City Jazz, Blues and BBQ Festival this weekend.

Past winners — Smoking Foolz of New Cumberland, Bad Axe of Hammondsville, Convicted Pigs of Parkersburg, W.Va. and Uncle Toads of Dayton — find themselves challenged by Circle L of North Jackson, Extra Mile BBQ of Loveland (near Cincinnati), Burning Pig of Columbus, Smokecraft of Bethesda, Md., High on the Hog out of Leesburg, Rolling Smoke Pig of Steubenville, and Spittin’ Feathers of Youngstown.

Four of those competitors – Burning Pig, Smokecraft, Bad Axe and Rolling Smoke Pig – also will be selling their tasty treats.

As East Liverpool Community Partnership for Revitalization (ELCPR) spokeswoman Kathy Hyatt Smith explained the event is sanctioned by the Kansas City BBQ Society, but that doesn’t limit the cuisine to just the Kansas City variety, which is best known for its thick and tangy sauce often containing ketchup and molasses to give it a sweeter consistency.

According to Hyatt Smith, the competitors, who prepare one entry for each of the four categories (beef, chicken, pork and brisket), can use to use a sauce or may choose not to. However, as the Kansas City BBQ 2019 rules explains, the sauce must be applied to the meat if the entrant choose to provide it.

C&N Woodburning Raymond Hooper of C&N Custom Woodburning embraced the smell of wood in the air, adding some of his own by demonstrating on a piece of Steelers’ artwork at his booth area. Some of his work is shown below. His wife Courtney and 2-year-old child Hunter were with him.


There are many sauces that competitors may elect to use, according to websites like Eater. com.

Starting with the Kansas City variety, it is possible the most popular of the sauces in culture. Hailing from the origins of Missouri, this thick, sweet and tangy sauce is routinely slathered on ribs up in our parts whether at fast food joints or chain restaurants. As Eater further explains, “It is the thick and gloppy baseline that units a nation of barbecue novices. Ketchup and molasses give it a sweeter, heavier consistency while additives like liquid smoke impart a barbecue flavor in lieu of coals, fire or a smoker. Worcestershire, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce and other spices also may find their way in the recipe. Despite the style’s critics, the barbecue restaurants of Kansas City often defy this reputation by creating a remarkable variety of house sauces with profiles from peppery and spicy to extra vinegary.

From Eastern North Carolina comes what is considered the mother of all American barbecue sauces. Traced back to North Carolina, it relies more on a tart taste with vinegar that is used to soak pork, as it cooks over the flame.

In North Carolina is also where you find the Lexington-style, or Piedmont sauce, which emerged after ketchup was added into sauces in the late 1800s≥ Many in Western North Carolina prefer this sauce, which utilizes both vinegar and ketchup as well as frequently incorporates a specialty red slaw, according to Eater.com.

In South Carolina, German immigrants arrived with mustard in tow to create its zingy vinegar sauce with added spices to dress pulled pork and other pork cuts, while in Texas, a mop-style sauce with vinegar is often applied as a thin glaze atop beef.

Memphis and St. Louis both prefer Kansas City-style barbecue but with a thinner and more vinegary bases, while a Worcestershire-based dib is used with mutton in Kentucky and a pasty mixture of mayonnaise, vinegar and pepper is best applied to smoked chicken or pork, in Alabama.


In the first day of the event, many vendors were putting their game faces on.

Not everyone was selling barbecue, although that was part of the attraction for many. Vendors were on hand selling everything from handcrafted items to merchandise popular from direct sales companies like Lularoe and Scentsy. There was pretty much something for everyone.

“The smell of wood burning draws people in,” noted Raymond Hoover of C&N Custom Woodburning as he demonstrated some of his craft to interested passers-by≥

The ELCPR was on hand selling beer and wine tickets to those of legal consumption age for one for $4 and three for $10. They offered beer on tap from the Numbers Brewing Company of Lisbon and a wide variety of wines as well.

Down the street, the East Liverpool High School boys’ soccer team could be seen volunteering with the setup of canopies as well as cleanup through the festival area.


Did someone say barbecue?

Smokecraft owner Drew Darneille was one of the teams who paid the extra money to vend on Friday night before competition day and was busy, getting ready for a hungry crowd circling his booth. He explained that this was his first trip to the event from his Maryland location and decided it was a good opportunity to test out the concept of a restaurant he was opening around Washington D.C. for a crowd.

“Our goal is to change the perception of what barbecue is,” he explained that he was looking forward to doing something a little different.

His sauces, which include some kind of fruit (such as his peach vinegar or chipotle cherry), are used to accentuate his dry rubs. “Adding citrus is always a good idea,” Darneille explained, as he flips some ears of corn on a grill and rests some ribs before serving them.

The barbecue community is a sisterhood of sorts, if one saw competitors Ann Hurst of Burning Pig catching a few words under a canopy with Rebecca Surber of High On the Hog. “Husband and wife teams are more common in barbecue than every before,” Surber acknowledged with Hurst saying that she like Surber, also competes as part of a couple team.


Even though they weren’t competing Friday night, they did use it as an opportunity to acclimated to the area as thunder briefly threatened the fun throughout the day.

On Saturday, though, each team will be have an entry in each of four categories that will be evaluated by society judges on their appearance, taste and tenderness between 1 (disqualification) and 9 (high). Then the lowest of those judges’ scores are tossed for each entry and the numbers totaled to score the division first through third place.

Those category totals are then compiled with the overall highest score winning grand champion status, while the second place achieves reserve champion status, according to society rules.

Last year, Hyatt Smith estimated that approximately 15,000 attended the event, which was developed to spurn economic development. “It’s more feet on the street. It brings people in from Youngstown and Pittsburgh. ELCPR is all about revitalizing East Liverpool, and we see the Diamond as its epicenter.”

In addition to the major sponsorships offered by East Liverpool City Hospital, Community Animal Clinic and Heritage Thermal Services, other sponsors included DiNuzzo Investments, Simon Roofing, Bricker’s Cafeteria, Riverview Florist, Keystone Printing, RIDE, Stella Grace Designs, Hyatt Family Constructions, Williams GD Graphic Design, Home Savings, McNicol Construction, Todd’s Sparkle Markets, Bob and Robin Flowers and DiLoreto Construction.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)


Starting at $4.39/week.

Subscribe Today