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BBQ on the Bow

I checked out BBQ on the Bow for the first time, earlier this aft. I am not sure what I expected but it didn't seem as interesting as I'd hoped. After an hour we were done. There was nothing more to see. We bought some sauces and checked out a few booths.

Having one caterer for the entire event with pork or beef brisket sandwich being the only food offered didn't work for us.

We'd hoped to talk to the competitors and pick up some tips, but they were either unapproachable or trying to sell something. No real 'bbq' tips offered here.

I have never been to a BBQ Competition so maybe this is how they are? I'd be interested in hearing what other experiences were, here or another city?

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  1. ha ha thats funny ,trying to get tips at a competition.cant give away trade secrets ,they need to have alittle edge against everyone else

    1. I cannot understand why this is marketed as a "festival" when it is anything but. The barista competition is more of a "festival" than this thing.

      Unfortunately by wasting your time at BBQ on the Bow you missed an EXCELLENT 10,000+ attended Gay Pride celebration today.

      1. We've experienced the same disappointment at BBQ on the Bow in terms of not even being able to try any of the food involved or get too close to the action. It smells great, which makes it all the more frustrating! As I remember there's one caterer doing corn and beef or pork on a bun who's not involved with the competition at all. We stood eating a pretty average beef on the bun watching as dozens of BBQ outfits cooked the real-deal stuff we REALLY wanted to be eating. It definitely needs some changes to make this a more user friendly event. They should do an amateurs competition alongside it where people can show up and show off what they can do with a grill/smoker and the public can taste and judge, but I guess there'll be all kinds of politics and health and safety legislation in place to make sure that doesn't happen. Oh well.

        1. The first thing that needs to be understood is that this is a BBQ competition. The cooks are there to compete, they are not there to provide samples to the general public. Secondly, there are numerous health regulations regarding providing food from an unlicensed, uninspected "kitchen".

          The first year that I attended I came away feeling the same, but since then got involved and have come to understand and enjoy the event much more.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Zydeco_Mama

            eaxactly- it's for the participants but it's sold as a FESTIVAL. It is not.

            1. re: Zydeco_Mama

              I think my point was that there as nothing to 'enjoy'. A few meager booths to keep you busy for all of 20 minutes. I understand why the competitors can't give out samples but I was hoping they would talk general BBQ to people wandering around. I'm not looking for their big secrets, just general tips for my new smoker. But they were too busy huddled in a roped off corner with their crowd, not daring to venture anywhere near the ropes. I felt that if you weren't part of the illustrious BBQ competitor group you weren't welcome.

              Having one caterer was a terrible idea. Their food was mediocre at best and was sold as a package deal with chips, and luke warm drinks.. I am there to eat BBQ,and various samples of it, not chips. And I don't mind paying for it. Maybe 'tickets' to try sample of things provided by various BBQ caterers, might be a better idea. I am sure there is a much better way to do this thing properly.

              John is right. Is in no way, shape or form a festival. I almost felt like I was a bother being there. I can't see myself going again and would be embarrassed to recommend as must do in this city.

              1. re: TSAW

                One tip will lead to everything you'll ever need to know about backyard smokin', and that's "Paul Kirk"

            2. This is more like what you're looking for. I am surprised there isn't a Calgary Ribfest, Edmonton Ribfest, Banff Ribfest, etc. They are throughought Southern Ontario all summer.


              Back ribs, St Louis ribs, Memphis ribs, beef ribs, chicken, pulled pork and more. The public votes on their fav.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Scary Bill

                While driving back to Calgary on Sunday afternoon, I heard about BBQ on the Bow and rushed down to find everybody packing up at 4 pm. Sounds like if I would have got there earlie I would have been mighty disappointed as like others I had hoped to buy some samples of ribs from the competitors (for dinner that night). I agree with others that if you are advertising for an event for the public, you should be providing samples to the public like they do at ribfests and chilifests. It can still be a competition and can put a few bucks in the pockets of the competitors, couldn't it?

              2. Yeah, I went years ago. It was the same thing back then. It's pretty useless if you're a spectator.

                1. "The society is committed to enhancing the quality of life in Calgary socially, culturally and economically"

                  Do ya think they need some feedback? Or at minimum revise their objectives?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: sarah galvin

                    Providing the society with feedback would be more positive than just complaining on Chowhound that the experience didn't live up to the expectation.

                    1. I've been to BBQ competitions in Ottawa and Kansas. In both those places the competitors actually sell their award winning ribs, brisket, chicken, etc...you talk to the competitors and they're really fun events.

                      BBQ on the bow has none of that interaction...to make things worse the year I went -like 3 years ago - they only sold 'mass produced' pulled pork and beans that tasted like it came from a concession stand at Stampede...Nothing sold from the competitors. Why would I go to a BBQ competition if I couldn't TASTE the award winning BBQ?...how cruel!!

                      The only saving grace that year was that one of the competitors took mercy on us and gave us a sliver of brisket.

                      I mentioned how disappointed I was to one of the organizers, who kind of shrugged me off like I had no idea what I was saying. The competitions in Ottawa and Kansas attract dozens of world class competitors and thousands of people...when I was at BBQ on the Bow I saw about a dozen people milling about...anyway huge fail for BBQ on the Bow, especially for a province like ours that has such great prairie raised beef and pork...seems like this 'festival' should be huge here.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Major_9000

                        Their online promotional pamphlet refers to it as "Calgary's Premier Summer Festival" with a main stage with live music, a children's craft tenant, a "kitchen" where you can learn the secrets of celebrity chef's and watch them "grill up their favorite recipes", a "street zone" with various vendors and displays etc.
                        I take it that this isn't the case. (I add myself to the list of people who have checked out this festival and come away confused. It seemed like a private gathering rather than a public event)

                        1. re: Harju

                          It does have all of those elements, but first and foremost it is a BBQ competition.

                          I'm not disagreeing with other posters, as I said in my first post I too came away unimpressed the first year I went. And it probably shouldn't be hyped as a festival. Unlike Major_9000 the other competitions that I have been to in Kansas and North Carolina did not sell the competitors meat.

                          What appears to be happening here is a disconnect between posters expecting a festival and competitors competing. I will take your comments to the board of the Competition.