Food, music sizzle at Blues, Views & BBQ fest
Blues at the 5th annual Blues, Views and BBQ Festival on the Labor Day weekend came courtesy of some popular musicians in the genre.
Barbecue was prepared by local vendors and 23 teams of competitors, with names like Rub Me Tender, Big Juicy Butts, Two Little Pigs, and Up in Smoke, in four categories in a feature called "Cookin' for a Cause," which benefited the Westport Woman's Club Food Closet.
Views were furnished by Mother Nature who had left the sky cloudless and solid blue for three full days but on Saturday and Sunday on the banks of the Saugatuck River, she filled it with puffy wisps of white which hovered over the site of the festival, mingling with the thick smoke that blanketed the competition area.
Some competitors were grateful for that intermittent cloud cover because the sun was strong and it tampered with their smokers. "The sun's coming down so hard it's heating up the smoker, raising the temperature higher than I want it to be," said Gregg Leonard of Fairfield, a member of the Psycho Grillers, who rigged an umbrella to block the sun's rays from his smoker.
Leonard was also concerned that he was getting an additional, unwanted heat source from below, too. "I don't know if it's a factor but the black top absorbs the heat (of the sun) and could be radiating heat as well," said Leonard, whose team captured the Grand Championship the first year it competed in 2009. They won second place for ribs the following year but took home no awards last year.
"So this year we're hoping it's our comeback," he said.
The Grillfathers aimed to thwart that effort. They have a winning history of their own having placed first in the chef's choice category four years ago and first place in the Iron Chef competition in 2010, and with two team members whose last name is Grandchamp they were hoping to have a lock on the competition.
Matt Grandchamp of Easton, and his brother Dave Grandchamp of Glastonbury, joined teammates Rick Ficalora and Joe Choinski, both of Fairfield. The foursome made an elaborate bacon lattice for one part of the competition and wrapped sausage in a bacon weave for the chef's choice competition. One of them called it their "bacon explosion."
Members of Generation Swine cooked steak for the chef's choice category. "A lot of times people cover it up with marinades, seasonings, rubs. We're letting the steak speak for itself," said Scott Braun, of Monroe, whose Generation Swine was named Grand Champ in 2011 and won for best chicken in 2010 and again the following year.
In addition to the cooking competitions, the events featured a full slate of music both days at the Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts.
Dorothy Webb of Prospect, one of many people who hid under umbrellas Saturday to avoid getting sunburned, was attending the festival for the first time. "The blues and barbecue; both sounded good, and not something you can get every day, especially that combination," she said.
"I love the casual, laid-back everything about it," said Mica DeSantos of Weston.
The fun was not limited to adults. There were plenty of activities for children including a mechanical bull ride, numerous inflatables, and arts and crafts.
"What a perfect day to spend in Connecticut; great music, great activities for the kids and great food," said Aron Davidson of Stamford, who brought his son Jake, 6.
The event was hosted by the Downtown Westport Merchant Association.