(Bedford, TX) - There was a time back when we were denizens of the FW-D Metroplex that we would attend the Bedford Blues Fest. They held it south of the busy Airport Freeway on a big patch of lawn by the hospital. Admission was free and the lineups were impressive if not always strictly blues. Attendees were as likely to be treated to a set from landmark Texas Americana acts like Joe Ely as we were sock-knocking sets by legends like Buddy Guy.
At some point while we weren't paying attention they added the barbecue component -- and in the process turned a great festival in an otherwise beautiful but largely nondescript Fort Worth suburb -- into something legendary. Bedford is mostly just lumped in as "one of the mid-cities" or as "part of the H-E-B" or more specifically considered the more affluent big-brother of those three that also include Hurst and Euless. They are all good towns but this Labor Day event has got to be the envy of the three which are so often overlooked as Arlington's big attractions (Six Flags over Texas, Jerryworld, The Ballpark) steal the spotlight shining on Tarrant County's other city.
The festival is clearly a priority for the chamber and other civic boosters in Bedford. This is evident in the way the event is run. No detail is overlooked and to the outside observer it always seems to go off without a hitch. If only they could make Labor Day in Texas a little cooler.
This is not an issue for the barbecue judges. We park close and have been situated the past two years in the "old" library. Old is the term they use as the city has evidently built a new library that must be one of the finer facilities in Texas. Because we can think of dozens of communities, including our own, that would jump through flaming hoops to get our library up to the level of Bedford's "old" library.
Now a few words about the folks who handle the judging. If there is anyone out there who organizes a competition or is thinking about it and wants to learn how to run a successful show -- look no further. At no point in the process -- from signup to day of -- that prospective judges don't know exactly where they stand and are not treated like a truly valuable part of the process. It is really almost difficult to believe. The disparity between this event and others is so mindbogglingly vast.
To that end we would like to take this opportunity to call out by name Bedford's Wendy Hartnett and her team as well as the always-great reps Karen and Ralph Williams (the curmudgeonly Mike Lake stepped up to help rep at the last minute this year when the teams topped 50). All of you make this the best run event on the circuit -- at least that we've encountered so far. Cheers to all of you.
If only the food had lived up to the rest of it. Indeed. We'd heard that the BBQ Pitmasters television show was producing the Texas episode for the upcoming season at Bedford on the Saturday before the main competition on Sunday. Between that and the indubitably high quality of the food in '11 we figured we were in for some fine eating. Imagine our surprise when most of it was just not that good. There were some real bright spots (could these have been entries from the celeb cooks like Canada's Diva Q?) but the barbecue this year in Bedford was overwhelmingly underwhelming. Some of it was actually just plain ol' not very good.
This was very surprising at a competition of this stature -- one big enough to draw the attention of and serve as a venue for a national television show. We left thinking to ourselves that if we deign to cook again it will probably be there. The prize money is good and if the competition remains at that level it won't be to hard to get calls.