TLC to feature Riverfest
Documentary series follows barbecue teams around the country
By Catherine GodbeyStaff Writer
At the 2009 Riverfest, J-Mack Cookers took home the grand champion title, but Decatur may actually reign as the top winner.
Amid the tons of meat and buckets of grease at the annual barbecue festival, a TLC camera crew roamed.
The cable network, famous for the shows “Jon & Kate plus 8,” and “Trading Spaces,” will air the footage as part of an eight-week documentary series.
Dubbed “BBQ Pitmasters,” the series follows six teams battling on the barbecue circuit as they fire their grills in competitions across the country.
Riverfest organizers and city officials hope the publicity places a national spotlight on the annual event, an official State Barbecue Championship competition sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society.
“These teams travel the country and make a living competing,” said Tiffany Brightwell of the Decatur Jaycees, which organizes the event.
“We know that these teams are nationally known, and the show will bring positive attention to our contest in the future.”
Tami Reist, president of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, agreed.
“Riverfest and the city of Decatur will benefit tremendously from the national exposure on the TLC network,” Reist said. “Anytime you get the city out there, it will drive more people to the area.”
After generating $48,000 in 2008, the revenue total for the 2009 Riverfest dropped to $20,000. Officials blamed the financial dip on rain.
The Decatur Jaycees hopes the exposure will boost revenue for the 16th annual Riverfest, scheduled for Sept. 17-18. Proceeds benefit local nonprofit organizations.
“BBQ Pitmasters” premieres Thursday at 9 p.m. Episodes will highlight competitions in Nevada, Missouri, Delaware, Illinois, Georgia and Alabama.
TLC scheduled the Riverfest episode to run Dec. 17, Brightwell said.
“It is a great honor for them to feature Decatur out of all the competitions in the Kansas City Barbecue Society circuit,” Reist said.
Annually, the barbecue society sanctions almost 300 events a year.
Big Bob Gibson
Reist and Brightwell credited Chris Lilly and the national reputation of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Que for attracting TLC. Lilly credited Riverfest itself.
“Riverfest is actually one of the premiere competitions with a fantastic reputation that pulls some of the best barbecuers in from all over the country. Because of the reputation, that is one of the reasons why TLC chose Decatur as one of the stops,” said Lilly, resident pitmaster and owner of Big Bob Gibson.
According to Lilly, Riverfest attracts teams that compete in 30 to 40 competitions a year.
With local leaders pulling for Decatur as the ultimate winner, the question remains who will come in second — maybe Slap Yo’ Daddy.
Along with Harry Soo with Slap Yo’ Daddy, the series features Jamie Geer with Jambo Pits, Myron Mixon with Jack’s Old South, Paul Petersen with Pablo Diablo, Tuffy Stone with Cool Smoke, Johnny Trigg with Smokin’ Triggers and Lee Ann Whippen with Wood Chicks.
Riverfest on TLC
TLC will air the episode featuring Riverfest on Dec. 17 at 9 p.m.
On the Net
For more information about “BBQ Pitmasters,” visit tlc.discovery.com/tv/bbq-pitmasters/bbq-pitmasters.html