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So it’s your first time to cook the Jack

With the 2010 Jack draw now in the books, the dust has settled and there are a ton of first time teams scrambling to deal with all that is the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue Contest. Just the logistics is so different from most any other event we cook. I mean, when you think about it, Lynchburg, Tennessee is a town with an approximate population of 400 people. The weekend of the contest, the little place swells to the point of almost bursting, with an estimated 30,000 people visiting all on one day. Somewhere I read that the annual visitors to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery is 125,000. Having 25% of them all come on one day makes my brain hurt a little. Expect to wait in traffic a good while if you driving around this tiny town on that Saturday.

So, it’s your first time to cook the event, huh? Here are a few things to consider.
1. Make your hotel reservations NOW. Not tonight, not tomorrow, now! There is only one motel in Lynchburg. Beyond that, there are a couple bed and breakfast places. At least 95% of folks visiting or cooking the event don’t stay in Lynchburg. They stay in the outlying towns. Tullahoma is probably the closest. They have a handful of hotels. We’ve also stayed in Shelbyville, although the road to and from Lynchburg looks a little treacherous to be traveling at night. Fayetteville and Winchester are the two other choices that come to mind, although we’ve never actually stayed there but a lot of our friends and fellow cooks have. Another option would be to stay in the cabins on the state lakes. There are a couple choices there and in ’07 we stayed in a really great cabin that had all the comforts of home with two bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room area and a big deck off the back. Beyond these choices, some teams even rent RV’s, having them delivered from Nashville. Still others just make due at their cook sites.
2. Make your reservations for Ms. Mary BoBo’s Boarding House. If you’ve never been, you really should eat a meal here. They seat in waves and serve the food family style at communal tables in various rooms of the house. When you call, ask about the menu that day. And, it changes daily, so should you be so inclined, you could eat there more than one day during your trip. They own fried chicken there and be sure to try the Jack spiced apples. Oh man.
3. Take a tour of the distillery. Make sure you get one of David Roper’s tours. David, affectionately known as “Porky” there, is a tour guide. His tours usually take a little longer than the other guides and he guides the cook’s tour, which typically is on Friday morning. It’s not so much important to make the cook’s tour as it is just to get over there and see the place with David as your guide. If you can’t get David as your tour guide, ask for Goose. Either way, you’ll be thoroughly entertained.
4. Get up to the Hardware Store as soon as you arrive in Lynchburg. The Hardware Store is actually the Jack Daniel’s memorabilia store. They sell all things Jack. They also run out of stuff quickly on this weekend. They will have the contest t-shirts and just about anything else that could have Jack Daniel’s logo put on it. As a competitor, there is a team discount so be sure to tell them your team name. Hey, every little bit helps. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that there is a place on the info sheet where you can pre-order your contest t-shirts. Use it. It’s the easiest way to insure you get all the sizes and quantities you want. The hot new trend of the past couple years is to buy a barrel top and get all of the competing teams for that year to sign it. We’ve resisted that urge so far, but I can see how it would make a great way to remember your experience.
5. Bring your team flag or state flag or a banner and march in the parade. The parade line forms at the cook-off and teams march a couple blocks to the distillery on Friday afternoon. The international teams really get into it with cool costumes, fun gear and exotic noise makers. Jack typically gives the teams beads to throw to the spectators. It’s just a fun little celebration.
6. Make it up on the hill. There is a cooks’ dinner hosted by Jack Daniel’s for cooks, judges and dignitaries. It’s on Friday about 5:00PM. The parade route ends at the distillery where school buses are parked and waiting to escort you to dinner in the pavilion. The menu is typically southern fare and there is a bar. The place is usually very crowded and everyone is in a festive mood. You can even write down a thought or subject that you’d like to get off your mind and throw it in the fire as a ceremonial way to rid yourself of it. The real reason for making the trip though, is for the view. The pavilion is so awesome, but the view is absolutely amazing.
Most of all, have fun. There is so much to do and see. Between the “I Know Jack About Grilling” event, the Butt Bowling contest, the private parties, the crowds, and on and on, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the event. Be sure to take rain gear, especially good rain boots. It rains every year and things get muddy real fast. Some years your rain boots are the only shoes you need. And don’t forget that Lynchburg is in a dry county so if you thirst for something special, better bring it with you and always, always put it in a red Solo cup. Try to get in as much of the festivities as possible, but above all, don’t lose sight of why you came. Cook well and enjoy your time in the hollar.