Boomer Backyard Cookoff to feature nine teams vying for $3,000 purse during Canton Day Off

Jim Richardson, at left, handed out the judging sheets for the six judges who had the enviable task of sampling the various cuts of barbecued meat during last year’s Canton Day Off Boomer Backyard BBQ Cook-off. The judges, from left, were Nick Prestby, JJ Miller, Mark Roddenberg, Shelia Nordsving, Eric Wilder and Chad Wangen. CHARLIE WARNER/NEWS LEADER

First and second place winners of the 2017 Canton Day Off Boomer Backyard BBQ Cook-off include, from left, first place winners The Bergey Boys, Brady, Brock, Don and Brandon Bergey and second place winners Straight Outta Canton, Tracy Snyder, Steve King and Hap Reilly. CHARLIE WARNER/NEWS LEADER
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Bluff Country Reader

Why would any sane adult spend an entire night tending to cuts of chicken, pork and beef cooking over a fire for up to 18 hours while camped out in the Minnesota elements? Sometimes they must endure cold and rain, other times it might be a hot, muggy mosquito-infested night. There’s even one competition that takes place on the frozen waters of Milacs Lake in March. These soldiers of the grill begin preparing their meats Friday evening, watch over their tasty treasures all night and must have them ready for judging by noon Saturday.

The reason is “Competition Barbecue,” a phenomenon that has not only become quite popular in the U.S., but all over the world.

Canton will be hosting its fifth annual Boomer Backyard Cook-off this coming weekend, Aug. 17 and 18, during Canton Day Off. According to Brady Bergey, there are nine teams signed up for Canton’s competition, coming from as far away as Princeton, Ill.

“Competition Barbecue is a lot of fun and it’s a lot of work,” noted Bergey, who, along with his father, Don, and brothers, Brock and Brandon, have been participating in the cooking competition since Canton’s inaugural event in 2014. Team Bergey has won the local competition before, but this year, team members have decided to help with organizing the event.

“The first Boomer Backyard Cook-off was held in 2014 with eight teams,” Bergey explained. “We fluctuate between five to eight teams a year. We have always had a ten-team max, however as Competition Barbecue popularity grows, we’ve discussed eliminating this cap. But, more teams would require more space. We’re working with the Canton Community Association and city of Canton to see what options we may have to expand our footprint.”

Bergey noted that Nick Prestby was the person responsible for bringing the competition to Canton. During the first four years, Ross Duckett and Jim Richardson jumped in to help organize the event.

“When they felt it was time to step down from organizing it, we jumped at the opportunity to turn from contestant to organizer,” Bergey said.

According to Bergey, The Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) is the world’s largest organization of barbecue and grilling enthusiasts with over 20,000 members worldwide and sanctions over 500 barbeque contests each year.

“My suspicion is that shows like BBQ Pitmasters caused a huge boom in the popularity of competitive barbecue. We never knew anything about it until seeing that show,” Bergey observed.

“We follow KCBS’s rules and regulations for the Boomer Backyard Cook-off,” Bergey said. “Teams are allowed to trim and prep the meat prior to arriving at the contest, however they cannot inject, brine, marinade or apply seasoning prior to meat inspection at the contest. Most teams will arrive mid-afternoon on Friday to set up their space and we have a mandatory cooks meeting at 5 p.m. that night.”

There are several different methods for smoking competition meat, according to Bergey. Some will opt for low and slow. These teams will start putting their meat on the smoker Friday evening. Others opt for more sleep and believe in cooking hot and fast. These teams may not put the meat on until 5 a.m. or later on Saturday morning and are cooking in excess of 400 degrees. They compete in four different categories: chicken, pork ribs, pork (shoulder/butt) and beef brisket.

“When we compete, we use of mix of both styles,” Bergey stated. “Our pork takes about six hours to cook and we can have a turn-in ready brisket in just over four hours. Chicken turn-in is at 12 p.m., ribs at 12:30, pork at 1, and brisket at 1:30. Each team can turn in up to five minutes after the scheduled turn in time. If they turn-in late, even by one second, that entry will not be scored. We’ve seen it happen before, unfortunately. Knock on wood, we haven’t experienced it yet.”

For their efforts, a total of $3,000 in prize money will be awarded on Saturday for the Barbecue Cook-off winners. Each of the four individual categories will pay $250 for first, $150 for second and $100 for third. The team with the highest combined score in the four categories will be crowned grand champion and earn $600. Reserve grand champion will claim $400. There are also trophies awarded to the winners.

“Canton really has a cool thing going on with this contest,” Bergey continued. “Some of the best barbecue teams from the midwest will be in attendance. We have the local fan favorite Straight Outta Canton (Snyder Boys as most locals know them by). I believe they have been at every single contest Canton has hosted.”

Bluff Country Barbecue out of Decorah is returning as well. Each of these teams have been crowned Boomer Backyard Cook-off Grand Champions in the past.

“We owe a huge thank you to all of our sponsors for making this happen. It’s their commitment that keeps an event like this going and we couldn’t do it without them,” Bergey added.

Persons are encouraged to visit to learn about all of the other fun events happening this weekend in Canton, Aug. 17-19. If this article got some competitive juices flowing, it’s not too late to sign up for the Bloody Mary Contest, Bean Bag Tournament, BINGO or the Poker Run.

For more information about this year’s Boomer Backyard Cook-off or would like to get on the waiting list for 2019, please email Bergey at

Next year’s contest will be held Aug. 16-17, again, in conjunction with Canton Day Off (“The Big One”).