|Don't see how food vendors can make money at Pork in the Park.|
I took the wife and kids all the way down to Salisbury on Friday night to go to the Pork in the Park, which someone told me has grown to the second largest KCBS competition in the entire USA. We got a room and visited the festival most of the day Saturday. I had been there last year.
Let me first explain, I am a pit beef guy, true to form but a little pork should do me just fine once in awhile. We were a bit overwhelmed at how large and spread out the festival had become. The competitor area was pretty big, and I had an opportunity to talk to a lot of the teams. Someone said there was supposed to be 130 but that only 113 actually entered. I don't know if that was accurate or not, one drunk competitor told me that, and those guys were having fun. So for competition, this show is great.
One competitor, named his cooking team SmokeTastic and was out of Woodbridge, Virginia. It was his first time. He said their row was up til 5am and they had fun. I spent awhile talking to him and his best pal and his wife, who made their team up.
They were telling me they were competing for fun, not for the prize money. I should say, big prize money. One of the guys said over $10K in prizes would be awarded to top ten places for each category.
FOOD VENDORS BEWARE
Now I couldn't help but worry about the food vendors. First of all, Pork in the Park is getting a little too big for their britches. It seems to me like they were expecting 100,000 people with the amount of food vendors they had. My son had fun counting, and said he counted 40, but the wife lost count at 35.
Let me just say I'm all for variety, but I bet these vendors paid a hell of a lot of clams just to sit and look at each other all weekend. I am primarily talking about vendors who were placed in a gravel lot. I suppose this was #2 Food Court but it looked like the shitter to me. I really thought this wasn't even part of the festival until I went over there.
Sadly, many of them were just standing around looking at each other. The weather was lovely, and there were lots of people, but I felt for them because only a few stands actually had lines.
Let me backtrack. You need a damn map to find your favorite vendors. In the past I always knew where to go to eat because it was shaped in an L, you could walk up and back and then decide. See my previous post about being there in 2011--everyone was on the grass around the pond. Now I was upset because I couldn't find any of the vendors I came to see.
There were food signs pointing one way, up along a rocky wall where I thought everyone used to be. There was food and beer and Famous Dave's. Instead of seeing Holy Smoke (Salisbury's best pit beef) or Big Fat Daddy's (Baltimore's Legend) in this same area,(where the what a dog best fries ever guy was) I found a gyro tent and some dried out excuse for beef up here too? I think his name was Nathan's. I can't remember because it sucked, but it was in a green joint. So what happened to Holy Smoke and Big Fat Daddy's?
Then I noticed there were food signs pointing away from the wall to what looked like a white beer tent. After I wandered over there on some rocky gravel lot, I realized there was a whole other side of seats and eats in what appears to be a parking lot. They had so many vendors crammed in there you couldn't even find anyone and some odd merchandise vendor tents mixed in. What was really messed up, is that by the time you wandered over there, your feet hurt like I don't know what. Wife was wearing those cushy clogs and moaned the whole time. I was on a mission. She must follow or get lost.
Aside from one rib guy who was jamming club music (loud as hell Smoke Shack's Barbecue?) and I think I may have seen a Michael Jackson video (at a bbq festival?) being lined up, no one else was doing any business. I felt like I was standing in a ghost town. There had to be 25 vendors in this court. Mixed into the giant mish mosh of food vendors I ran into Doomer who sells his local Maryland Q sauce and was diagonal from another sauce guy doing nothing either. I don't know why arts, crafts, product and merchandise vendors are mixed in with local and out of town food vendors. Then again, I don't understand why the food was so separated like this.
I was really pissed because I couldn't find any of the pit beef joints I came to see. Holy Smoke, is Salisbury's best local pit beef guy who I eat with at Bike Week too. (He's got really good pork nachos, and I always saw him up by the wall but couldn't find him this year.)
Let's not forget about Big Fat Daddy's, because it's no secret they are part of Baltimore history and they never do fairs anywhere close to me anymore. I read on their blog they were going, and that was usually my main reason for going is to hob knob with the local guys from B-More . By the time I found them (and Holy Smoke) I had already eaten and they were standing around twiddling their thumbs.
I bought a Big Fat Daddy's Texas Beef Sub to eat in the car on the ride home. This is their pit beef smothered in a sweet hickory sauce. My only complaint? The wife who wasn't hungry stole half. Not to mention she scarfed down her Pork Nachoes and half my darn sub.
I asked the guy at the counter at BFD's what was up? He just shook his head and looked like he was going to cry. This was a first for sure. Big Fat Daddy's with no line?
One of the food vendors in the gravel lot I ate (before I found them) says he came all the way from North Carolina. He said he came all that way and didn't make his rent and was pulling out early. He actually apologized that his food was dry because it had been sitting on his grill all day.
My wife asked the lemonade lady how she was doing and she got an earful. I can't repeat to you what she said but then again I could not hear her explicitness over the "Man in the Mirror " song being blared by the Smoke Shack Barbecue rib place. What is it with Michael Jackson and BBQ?
Now I don't like Michael Jackson but they were handing out free samples. I wondered why you had to hand out free samples when it's a bbq festival and all those fancy signs and MJ videos should have been enough to lure people in. Then I realized, you have to do something to get the customers in when you are sitting in the shitter with a million people selling food right next door to you.
Now this would have been okay if there was a million people to feed. I am sure Pork in the Park gets thousands of people, but this food court was E M P T Y .
Another guy was a local Salisbury restaurant, taking a bath. I asked him point blank what was up. He said he had no idea, but they had been there since the start of the festival.
I found Hess' BBQ, who is huge up around Maryland and PA, in the same lot, and that guy was not looking too happy. I asked "Hey Buddy, why aren't you over there where you used to sit", the man inside just shook his head. I guess when you don't have anything nice to say, you don't say anything at all. Either that or he was about to cry. I noticed he had a few trucks parked behind him, probably still full of food, that there was no way in hell he was gonna sell because the Sunday storms were coming and there was just too much food.
There's something wrong when award winning food vendors don't have lines. It's not their set up or their food, it's location, location, location and placement. Oh, and way too much food. Did I say too much food?
I think my time at Pork in the Park is over. I go to eat with the real bbq guys and legends. I know Famous Dave's is a legend but they are too commercialized now. The Holy Smokes and Big Fat Daddy's are still cooking to order and not commercializing. It's safe to say the people I came to see won't be going back there either because for them, they had no lines, no customers and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out they weren't selling food.
I'm sure for the locals, it's something to do--eat, drink and be merry. I'm also sure for other unknowing food vendors, someone will be there to take the existing and obviously soon to be ex-food vendor's places.
What a shame. Pork in the Park will probably lose them . Maybe not the Michael Jackson guy....but I bet 80% of the rest of the lot that was there , doing nothing.
Shame on you Pork in the Park, shame on you. Next year's food is going to suck.