Backyard BBQ Blast

Amateur grillers enjoy fun
of competing despite the hard work

Ohio couple has made the Backyard Blast a family affair

(August 2019) – Ryan Wyrick hit a common theme among participants in the Madison Courier Backyard BBQ when he said, “It’s always fun! Regardless of how we end up, it is always a positive experience. We enjoy what it is.” Participants look forward to reconnecting with old friends from previous years. They may be contestants, but they will always help each other.
The 18th annual Backyard BBQ Blast is a community event on the east end of Vaughn Drive, between West and Mulberry streets, in Madison, Ind., and will be held Friday, Aug. 16. Amateur teams arrive early Friday morning to set up at 6 a.m. and then cook all day. By late afternoon, sample meats and sides are prepared for judging. Leftovers are offered for free to the public. The amateur competition begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday. The winners are announced during the Friday night concert. In addition to the meats categories, there are awards for the best original sauce, the best original rub, best contraption and the best team.

Photo provided

The Smokin’ Spirits amateur team from Hamilton, Ohio, includes (from left) Larry Brown, Pat Brown, Geri Ruhlman, Adler Wyrick, Cassie Ruhlman and Ryan Wyrick.

The Backyard BBQ Blast is the kickoff to the weekend blues and barbecue festival. Wristbands must be purchased for $35 at the gate to participate in the Ribberfest concerts Friday evening but walking around the Backyard Blast area is free since it is outside the festival gates.
Nine years ago, Ryan and his wife, Cassie, were looking for something to do. They decided to come to Madison to enter the Backyard BBQ competition. Ryan, now 43, said he always liked to use his smoker, so they said, “Let’s try it.” They found they were totally unprepared.
Fortunately, their booth was next to the Sena family booth.
The Senas helped them and even shared supplies. The Wyricks were drawn to the friendly atmosphere. They also found that Madison was a “cool place to visit.” Now when they drive down from Hamilton, Ohio, they come early on Thursday. They stay the whole weekend at the Clifty Inn. They take time to hike in the park with their 5-year-old son, Adler.
So far, the Wyricks do not have a secret recipe. Ryan said he likes to tinker, trying different rubs and sauce combinations. They have placed as high as fifth, but not in the top three yet. He uses commercial rubs but makes his own sauces. There is always the challenge to make it better each year. In addition to Cassie, his team this year consists of Adler, Cassie’s mom, Geri Ruhlman, and friends, Kelly, Larry and Pat Brown. Over the years he has used several different team names. He has entered under the name, “Smokin’ Spirits,” for the last three years. 
The “Smokin’ Spirits” team enters every meat category: ribs, pork, beef, poultry and game/other. Cassie is making her famous Smoked Mac and Cheese recipe. The team works together on all of the meats – no one specializes in one area.

Photo provided

Pictured are Bill Keller (left) and Jason Beavers.

“We have a loose team structure,” Ryan said. “We float between the smokers and do it all. That way everyone gets to do something fun.” His favorite part of the event is walking around while the teams are turning in their meats to the judges. He enjoys the camaraderie and sampling other entries. “We are always excited to share what we’ve done.”
Jason Beavers, 34, continued the “fun” theme when he said, “The best part is being down there, hanging out, having a good time. I look forward to meeting new people as well as seeing friends who come back every year.”  Beavers has worked with Bill and Jennie Keller for the past five years. Bill was the one who got Beavers interested in smoking meat at home. Beavers said it is just so enjoyable to do. They all live in Hanover, Ind.  Bill has recently retired from the Madison State Hospital. Beavers works in a local automotive factory. This hometown Backyard BBQ competition is their only event each year. 
This year they will run two teams, “Can’t Beat My Meat #1,” and “Can’t Beat My Meat #2.” Both teams will compete in all categories. They run a lean operation, with Jennie, the sole assistant, preparing and plating the entries. They share ideas for their homemade sauces, and Beavers makes his own rubs as well. They do all of the meats in smokers. They have four smokers: two offset smokers, a barrel smoker and a gas-fired smoker that is used to keep the finished meats warm before the judging.
The offset smokers have the fire on the side, so the chamber is just heated and the meat is not directly over the fire. In the barrel smoker, the meat hangs at the top of the smoker, not on a grill directly over the fire. Splitting into two teams this year provides both men the opportunity to be creative and try new things. Beavers is planning to prepare deer tenderloin or backstrap for his entry in the Game/Other category.
Steve Thomas, Ribberfest Chairman, said there were more than 40 teams registered by the beginning of August. The number usually swells close to the maximum 60 teams by the day of the event. More than a dozen teams usually register in the last week, according to Thomas. He can gauge the number of new entries by the number of calls and questions he receives. With a smile, Thomas observed, “They have a lot more fun at this amateur side. These guys are all fun!”

Back to August 2019 Ribberfest Articles.



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