In ads for BBQ contests, you may have seen various logos or "sanctioned by XXX"; what does this mean or imply about the contest? Basically, sanctioning means following certain rules and regulations, which are set up by various sanctioning bodies. In terms of determing a winner, the same scoring system is used at EVERY contest for that sanctioning body. This is appealing to cookers; they won't have to take the time to try and figure out how each and every contest they enter scores things.
Also, sanctioning lends a sense of credibility to a contest; cookers are reassured that the outcome will be fair and it will indeed be a BBQ contest, not a "whose turn is it to be called the champion" contest. Many times, groups of cookers wanting to have a BBQ contest will request that an organizer have the contest sanctioned - this gives the
contest an air of being fair to all entrants.
Please note - sanctioning a contest is NOT the same thing as getting a state championship proclamation! Often, the next step for an organizer after sanctioning a contest is getting a state championship proclamation, but this isn't always the case, and it isn't required. In Louisiana and Mississippi, the governors have issued "blanket" state championship proclamations which means that any contest with the required number of teams - 15 teams the first year, 25 teams the second and consecutive years - is considered a state championship.
All contests must have at least 10 teams entered to be BCA sanctioned.
BCA defines two types of contests, Traditional and Non-Traditional, in its rules. Both types contests are sanctioned by BCA. The only difference between the two types of contests is the allowed heat source. Cooks participating in a Traditional Contest are only allowed to use wood or wood/charcoal products as a heat source for cooking the three or more contested meats. Conversely, cooks participating in a Non- Traditional Contest are allowed to use any legal fuel or energy source including wood, wood/charcoal products, gas, or electric. These are no limitations as to a required number of contested meat categories for a Non-Traditional Contest. All other BCA rules will be followed.
During initial planning stages, promoters decide whether their contests will be traditional or non-traditional in format. This decision is based on the cook demographics in the local area, available contest space/utilities, available prize money, and other related factors. There is no one universal standard that can be used to make this decision.
As long as the minimum number of allowed cooks are present, 15 for a first year event and 25 for all other years, BCA traditional contest Grand Champions get invited to the draw for the Jack Danielís World Championship in Lynchburg, TN (October of each year) and the American Royal World Series of BBQ in Kansas City, MO (September of each year). For non-traditional contests, BCA Grand Champions of non-traditional contests Grand Champions can get invited to the American Royal invitational as long as meat categories involving chicken, pork and beef are all contested. These American Royal invitations also require the contest to have at least 15 participating cooks in the first year of an event or 25 cooks for every other year of an event.
The best thing you can do is know your options, and in terms of getting information about them, one of the best resources available is the WWW. Many, if not all, BBQ sanctioning bodies have websites - several in the LA-TX area are listed on the "Helpful Links" page of this site - check them out and see which suits your needs the best. Most of the sites have a link called "Sanctioning" or "How to sanction your contest" or "Sanction request" that should get you started - but be prepared for it to take up to 3-6 months to get word that your contest has been sanctioned. Most sanctioning bodies require that you get your request for sanctioning in at least 90 days before the intended date of your contest; some bodies also require a guarantee of your prize money, in writing. Look thru various calendars on the WWW for information on what existing contests are held when before you submit your date, and take possible conflicts into consideration - especially with local festivals and events that may be held in your area. (Keep in mind that it's not unusual for a BBQ team to travel several hundred miles to attend a contest!) It's a good idea to look at it from the perspective of a potential entrant in your contest - what problems, if any, might they have with the date you selected? Some sanctioning bodies also have rules about just how close contests happening on the same weekend can be - this is mainly due to the fact that some areas don't have all that many BBQ cooks, and dividing that small number between contests will likely cause all those contests to be under attended.
Once you have sanctioning approved and a date and a flyer for your contest that has been approved by your sanctioning body, try and attend one or more contests in your area and introduce yourself to the cookers. Tell them about your contest and encourage them to attend! Cooks are much more likely to attend a new contest when they've met the organizer(s) instead of just seeing an announcement posted somewhere. Cooks are an excellent source of practical suggestions of dos and don'ts for your contest, in addition to what your sanctioning body tells you!