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Backyard on the Grape 2019

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Teams signing up after 2/14/19 are waitlisted!

Backyard on the Grape 2019 is an informal spring training of sorts (backyard BBQ contest) to allow for new and old teams to get some face time with actual real judges. All of which learn something over the course of the event. This can be distilled down to the basics – Fun, practice, comradery and learning about competition BBQ.

What is a “Backyard Event/Contest”?

It is a very informal competition where the main purpose is two-fold: (1) for experienced teams it is a chance to practice in between competitions and keep their skills well oiled (or try a new spin on their old stand-bys); and (2) for novices, it is a chance to get the feeling of what a “real” competition would be like without the expense/entry fee or pressure of a “real” competition.

In a normal KCBS, PNWBA or IBCA event, a team would arrive at the event on a Friday morning or afternoon, set up, start prepping their meats and start cooking the brisket and pork butt sometime on Friday night/early Saturday morning. Our flexible schedule allows for teams who may not be able to take off of work on Friday and can begin their cook prep later in the evening.

In the backyard event, more experienced teams also have the chance to help less experienced teams and offer some advice (only if requested!!). They can also help with showing how to prep a box and other presentation issues which may be something of a puzzle to anyone who has never entered a BBQ contest before. Novices also get a chance to practice timing, by getting a feel for the “pressure” of having to turn in product during a specific timeframe, and get a feel for the type of equipment and additional food items (i.e. apple juice, salt, honey) that they might need to bring to a “real” competition.

There is also an educational component for our judges in the backyard event. The judges will openly be discussing your entries aloud with you and the other teams, which allow the judges to offer comments about the product judged (i.e. too salty, too spicy, mushy, burnt) as well as numeric scores like those given in a formal contest setting. This helps the judges clarify and articulate their standards while providing valuable feedback to the cooks. We ask that you understand in advance that the judges take this responsibility very seriously and will be honest and critical, you come to this event to hear others opinions and that’s what you will get. We do use KCBS scoring so again, novices can get a good idea of what a competition would be like — especially with so many CBJ’s showing up to judge!

It’s like American Idol meets BBQ!

Finally, one of the main purposes of the gathering is friendship and fun and sharing some Q with others who enjoy doing what we do. Each team is asked to cook a bit more than what is necessary for the 6 piece turn in box. After the competition is over, we all share our BBQ and get to taste and compare and enjoy the BBQ camaraderie of this relaxed competition atmosphere!!!

New for 2019 – 

  1. A FIFTH category has been added – beef Tri-Tip, this 5th turn in can also be used for other meats (see below)
  2. New roles now available for judges not ready to give live verbal feedback directly to teams
  3. Mini Classes are proposed for Friday evening

The Details

What are we cooking?

Cook any (or all) of the standard competition meats – chicken, pork ribs, pork shoulder or butt (for pulled pork), brisket and new for 2019 we are adding a new ancillary category of beef Tri-Tip! If you really want to cook only 1 or all 5 meats, that’s ok with us!

All cooking MUST be done on site!

How does this work?

Judges and peers may be instructed to use knives and forks.

It is STRONGLY Recommended that ALL team members stay in the judging area as long as possible to gain the most insight as to what the judges think, not just during your teams turn in, but other teams turn ins as well. Turn in times will be assigned so as to maximize this exposure.

All present MUST understand that pictures, and/or (audio/video) recording is ENCOURAGED! Bear in mind that this is NOT for public posting, but for the private review of fellow teammates.

The thing that’s THE most important at this contest is the feedback the judges provide to the cooks. This comes at a sacrifice of maintaining any semblance “standard” turn in times, it’s just not possible to do both at the same time. Once you have your taste and tenderness recipes and formulas down, you can practice your timing at home, with your own clock, even for all 5 competition meats.  We feel that the value of live feedback is far more important than teaching how to be a “hall monitor” of timing. That said we still want to impress upon the cooks that timing IS very important, as such we’ve come up with a turn in schedule that provides 7-8 minutes per team to be judged (which we’ve seen is a good number). Since not all teams will be cooking all meats the judges will get some breaks and will have the option to get up and have someone take over nearly anytime.

So based on this we are going to use this turn in schedule:

The turn in times listed above are NOT “turn in” windows, but should be considered your assigned turn in time. Please do your best to be there 2 mins. before this time (entry in hand) to get the maximum exposure with the judges. Judges will begin on the next entry as soon as it arrives and as long as they are done with the previous entry. This way no entries are sitting for long periods while others get stuck in a traffic jam.

We have also found that this has been a good place for even experienced teams to experiment – i.e. want to try cherry cola ribs out on judges or another creative recipe that you wouldn’t risk in a real contest, this is the place to give it a try.

Why are the turn ins not specified?

This worked out so well in 2018 we are bringing it back in 2019. Turn in your entries in any order, or any way you want….meaning if you want to do 5 different rib preparations for your 5 turn in’s that’s fine with us. Otherwise, use a format that works best for you be that standard KCBS or PNWBA or reverse. Ask us why this could be important!

The only thing to note here is that any team can only win ONE award in any given category, so just because you turn in 5 rounds of ribs, you cannot win first AND second (or first AND third, or second AND third, you get the idea). Your BEST scoring entry will be put up against all other entries in that category. As such we do not award an overall winner (no GC at this event).

What’s with the name “Backyard on the Grape”?

For 10 years we’ve had the pleasure to be hosted by longtime CBBQA member Dave Bart at a private water ski lake/club, where this event was titled “Backyard on the Lake”.  Since we’ve moved to the Lodi Grape Festival Grounds, it seems like a fitting tribute to call this event “Backyard on the Grape”.


  • Level Team Sites!
  • 20/50 amp “shore” power INCLUDED – from your arrival until your departure!
  • Real bathrooms (no portables!)
  • Onsite dump station
  • Nearby water hookups
  • Grass or pavement spaces available (choices as available), no dirt!
  • Access to full kitchen with 3 basin hot water sink for dishwashing
  • Centrally located just a few miles off I-5, <1 mile off CA-99, ~250 miles north of Bakersfield
  • Short walk from all team sites to INDOOR Judging

Entry fee is $125 per team. We must get 10 teams to make this happen, with a maximum of 36 spaces available.

All teams will have power, water, access to bathrooms, hot water wash sink, grease disposal, black water dump station, ash disposal, (and hopefully on-site showers). RV’s WELCOMED!

In progress items, we are working on finalizing the following:

  • Friday night dinner or potluck
  • Mini-classes for all teams!
  • Saturday afternoon “leftovers” potluck

If you have any questions about this event, please use the contact link at the top or bottom of this page.