|our Memphis in May Booth for 2009|
1. The entry fees are just the start of it! MIM costs a lot of money to enter, even for the smaller size areas, which starts at $500 for a 18x20 foot area and goes up to $3600 for a 36x50. This fee lets you rent that amount of dirt and gives you entry into 1 category (more about that later). Other fees you will add- clean up deposit, electrical, fire permit, porto-john rental, and of course cooking supplies and food for both the contest and your team. By the time you add in transportation, hotels if needed, booth decor, flooring and tents (if you don't have your own you need to rent them- MIM is notoriously muddy) and other misc. costs, plan on spending at least $7000 for a medium size spot for the weekend and feeding a few friends. If you want to host a full-fledged party start adding in more money. Some teams spend over $75,000 for the week- scaffolding, painted fronts of their buildings, lots and lots of food and alcohol- it gets crazy. There is a lot of "catering" and sponsorship involved with MIM- and most teams use this to offset their expenses. Moral of the story- save up your pennies or find a sponsor.
2. Categories- the main categories are Whole Hog, Shoulder and Ribs. There are also quite a few "ancillary" contests such as beef, exotic meat, seafood, sauces, etc. The ancillary contests do not count towards the Grand Champion award, only the main ones. So, the question is "How do I choose which category to enter?" This really comes down to you and your skills. The average entries per category are Hog-40, Shoulders 60 to 70, Ribs 110+. GENERALLY SPEAKING, there are not as many "party teams" in Hog, so the competition is stronger. So the numbers don't really tell the full story- just enter what you believe is your best category.
3. How much to cook for each category? The MINIMUM we would ever think about cooking would be 1 Hog, 8 shoulders and 15 Ribs. This is the standard amount of meat we cook at a normal Memphis-style contest. At MIM, we would probably double the category amount (since you are only cooking 1 category, you should have more space to cook- for example if we were in Shoulders- we would cook 12 to 16 shoulders. Overkill? Maybe, but we wouldn't want to lose out on a shot at the World Championship because we didn't buy enough shoulders).
4. What do I need for my booth and where do I get it? Ok, this gets more dependant upon you and the purpose of you cooking MIM. Assuming you are a COMPETITIVE team coming down to enter and test your skills against the Worlds' Best BBQ-ers, here is what you need: Obviously, you will need your smokers and general cooking utensils-knives, cutting boards, etc. You WILL need a tent- if you don't have a good looking one or it's too small, you may rent one. You would be very smart to plan on flooring-either bring your own or rent. MIM is very specific about flooring, you are not allowed to just lay down plywood, it must be framed so it is not crushing the grass (if there is any left after the Music Festival!). High up on the suggestion list is a fan(s). It tends to get pretty hot. For On-Site Presentations, you must have a table to feed the judges along with plates, etc. MIM usually has an agreement with a local rental agency where you can rent almost all of your needs (a list of rental items will be sent to you in your acceptance packet- portajohns, power agreement, etc).
A local meat company delivers meat on Wedn-Friday to your booth. You must advance order to get this, but they have just about anything you need. Sams Clubs also basically puts in a store at the festival where you can get slaw, buns, or just about anything you could need. Ditto for the local Beer Company!
All of these conveniences are there to aid out-of-town or even out-of-the-country teams that enter here every year. Either rent or bring a 2-wheeler!
MIM itself will also put you in touch with whoever you need if you are an out-of-towner. They are very nice to work with as they want a successful contest.
In future posts, we will talk more about what to do to help your chances at MIM, places to visit if you are just coming in town to judge or visit, and many other things. Check Back Soon!