Bear's Smokehouse, Riverfront Recapture Team Up For Two-Day BBQ Championship, Festival

Can you barbecue as well as Bear's Smokehouse? You get your chance Labor Day weekend.

Do you think you can barbecue like one of Connecticut's best? You'll get your chance Labor Day weekend in Hartford. 

Jamie McDonald of Bear's Smokehouse in Hartford and Windsor will partner with Riverfront Recapture for the first Bear's Smokehouse New England BBQ Championships Sept. 5 and 6, the organization announced Friday. 

The two-day event will feature two barbecue-centric events. Tickets will be sold for a People's Choice event in Riverside Park Saturday evening, with all-you-can-eat smoked meats, craft beer sampling and live music. Guests will judge the participating cook teams and vote for favorites. A VIP area will feature higher-end food and drink, McDonald said. 

Sunday brings a Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) sanctioned State Championship at Riverside Park, requiring teams to cook four meats (chicken, pork ribs, pork butt and brisket) according to the organization's standards. Winners will earn $20,000 in prize money and the opportunity to compete in the World Food Championships in Kissimmee, Fla. in November. 

McDonald's barbecue, done in the style of his hometown Kansas City, has earned raves since it debuted in Windsor in 2013. Bear's originally shared space with Bart's Drive-In and the Beanery Bistro, but grew quickly. In July, he opened a Hartford location on Arch Street, and he then moved his Windsor operation to Poquonock Avenue in December. He's also an accomplished competitive eater, holding several world records. 

"I'm very excited about it; to partner up with Riverfront, they do a lot for the Hartford area and the redevelopment of the downtown area," McDonald said. "It's an awesome opportunity to bring something [new] like this to Hartford. My goal is for this to be a yearly thing, to get bigger and bigger. I want this [championships] to be up there with the biggest BBQ competitions in the country."

Tickets are $50 for general admission; $95 for VIP access. They'll go on sale March 1; proceeds will benefit Riverfront Recapture. Information: riverfront.org

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