Memphis/ Food & Drinks
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Published on May 17, 2024
Memphis Ignites Culinary Spark with Debut of SmokeSlam BBQ Festival Along the Mississippi RiverSource: Unsplash/ Emerson Vieira

Memphis' appetite for barbecue is insatiable, and the city's latest event, SmokeSlam, stoked the fires of competition along the Mississippi River this weekend. In what is already making headlines as a smoldering success, more than 50 teams congregated at Tom Lee Park for the inaugural SmokeSlam BBQ festival, where pit masters vied for a chunk of the $250,000 total prize money.

From local favorites to international chefs, this new festival, according to Action News 5, delivered an aromatic array of smoked meats. Marcio Borguezan of team Hog Addiction summed up the sentiment, "The reason we’re here, barbecue," while Reggie Manning, pit master of Shine & Swine, highlighted the spirit of the competition: "It's a lot of work, but we’re here for the comradery, the friends and also just to experience this aspect of the park as well as the river."

Meanwhile, as reported by FOX13 Memphis, SmokeSlam is taking place concurrently with the storied Memphis in May World Championship BBQ Contest, which moved to Liberty Park after disagreements with the Memphis River Parks Partnership. This didn't cool off excitement for SmokeSlam, however, with its slew of attractions including music and family-friendly activities, along with the savors of world-class barbecue.

Organizers of SmokeSlam, Mempho Presents, showcased an intent for longevity in the barbecue fest's staging. "We are invested in Memphis for the long-term," Milton Lovell, COO of Forward Momentum, told The Commercial Appeal, asserting a renewal right over the next decade. With teams like Sweet Cheeks, which boasts a rising track record in regional competitions, attendees tasted expertise from finely honed craftspeople like pitmaster John Jordan Proctor, who reflected on his team's journey. "We got really fired up to come back and do a good job," Proctor shared his history of gritty competition and consecutive wins.

From the zest of teenage pitmasters, brought out by seven-time World Barbecue Champion Melissa Cookston, to internationally inspired entries, SmokeSlam exhibited more than just great barbecue. As Ashely Henson of The Pit Crew at Faith and Fires Ministry told Action News 5, "Practice and teamwork and trust because we have to trust each other to do their own job." In essence, the festival not only stirred the smoker coals but also ignited a sense of community, both local and far-reaching. With gates opening at 2:00 PM for another round of feasts, the sounds of sizzling grills and music promised a continuous celebration of flavors and fellowship along the riverfront.