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Christmas on the River Cook-off

Alabama State BBQ Championship

Basting sauce on the barbecue. Photo by Joe Kutinsky/23NcFc on Flickr (all rights reserved, used by permission).

Official Alabama State Championship Barbecue Cook-off

Alabama's official championship barbecue cook-off is part of the Demopolis "Christmas On The River" pageant, which began in 1972. The barbecue cook-off became part of the festivities in 1989 and has since grown to include barbecue teams from nine states, 75 judges, and thousands of barbecue fanatics from across the country. In 1991 the barbecue cook-off received honors officially from the state of Alabama. State Holidays & Events

Festivities for the Christmas on the River pageant go on for an entire week, including the barbecue cook-off contest, arts, crafts, parades, music, and dancing. There are three categories in the barbecue cook-off competition: ribs, shoulders and whole-hog. The winners earn entry into the World Championship "Memphis In May Barbecue Cooking Contest," where the international barbecue champion is chosen.

There are different opinions as to the origin of the word "barbecue." Some claim that it's a derivative of the West Indian word "barbacoa", which means meat cooked over hot coals. Others believe the word comes from the French term "barbe a queue" meaning "from whiskers to tail."

The history of southern barbecue itself is more clear. Pigs were a low-maintenance food source for southerners and became a staple (pigs could be put out to root in the forest and caught when needed). Every part of the pig was utilized, and slaughtering became a time for celebration - the neighborhood would be invited to share in the festivities. The traditional southern barbecue grew out of these gatherings

In the nineteenth century, barbecue was a feature at church picnics and political rallies as well as at private parties. A barbecue was a popular and relatively inexpensive way to lobby for votes, and the organizers of political rallies would provide barbecue and lemonade.