If you're a grill master, this competition may just be your mecca.
The Air Force has launched its first-ever "High Flyin' BBQ Challenge," aimed at involving airmen in barbecue competitions in their communities and showcasing their barbecue skills.
Active-duty, Guard and Reserve airmen across the contiguous U.S. can compete for prizes and top honors. So can sister service members at Air Force-led joint bases: Joint Base Andrews, Md.; Joint Base Charleston, S.C.; Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.; and Joint Base San Antonio.
"We constantly seek opportunities to provide new and innovative programming for [airmen and families]," said Col. Marc Piccolo, spokesman for the Air Force Personnel Center. "Given the popularity of barbecue in the U.S., and the popularity of reality shows like TLC's 'BBQ PitMasters,' we decided to field a barbecue-based program this year."
But before you marinate, the first step is to tell the Air Force about your barbecue skills.
By April 18, entrants must submit a 500-word-maximum essay with a photo of their barbecue only and a description of why they believe their barbecue techniques are the best.
Essays will be graded on clarity, creativity and the entrant's knowledge of barbecue.
"We're mainly interested in people who are passionate about their barbecue," Piccolo said. "Winning essays will clearly convey their excitement and passion for this pastime."
But if writing isn't your forte, a video essay would work, too. "Contestants can now submit a link to a short video as an alternative to the essay," Piccolo said. "We realize some people would rather tell their story on video than take pen to paper."
AFPC judges will pick the top two essay writers from each of three U.S. regions — west, central and east — to be announced April 25. Those six will then compete in a regional community competition sometime between May 23 and Aug. 23.
"We'll work with national and regional barbecue associations to line up selected participants with a sanctioned competition within driving distance," Piccolo said.
Local competition events do not necessarily need to be physically located within the region an airman represents — some events could be up to 200 miles away from an airman's base.
All competitors will provide their own transportation, equipment and supplies, including meats and other food products, for their local qualifying competition. Competition sanctioning bodies will provide rules and instructions for their event; airmen will have a minimum of one month to prepare. By Aug. 27, the sanctioning bodies will provide the Air Force with the results using their rules and scoring system.
Three finalists from the regional community competitions will travel to San Antonio in September, exact date to be determined, to compete in the Air Force Finals, slated to be held simultaneously with the San Antonio Stock & Rodeo Show's Fall Festival.
For more information on the contest rules, and to find out where the officially sanctioned barbecue events are across the U.S., visithttp://www.myairforcelifecom/BBQ.