What does it mean that a contest is sanctioned?

In ads for BBQ contests, you may have seen various logos or "sanctioned by XXX"; what does this mean or imply about the contest? Basically, sanctioning means following certain rules and regulations, which are set up by various sanctioning bodies. There are several in this area, among them:

to name a few - there are also sanctioning bodies in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, the Pacific Northwest and in several other places as well. All of these have pre-established a set of rules that will be in force at a contest that they are said to sanction; what this means is that a cook doesn't have to worry about things being one way at one contest and completely different at another if the same body sanctions both contests. In terms of determing a winner, the same scoring system is used at EVERY contest for that sanctioning body. This is appealing to cookers; they won't have to take the time to try and figure out how each and every contest they enter scores things. Also, sanctioning lends a sense of credibility to a contest; cookers are reassured that the outcome will be fair and it will indeed be a BBQ contest, not a "who's turn is it to be called the champion" contest. Many times, groups of cookers wanting to have a BBQ contest will request that an organizer have the contest sanctioned - this gives the contest an air of being fair to all entrants.

Please note - sanctioning a contest is NOT the same thing as getting a state championship proclamation! Often, the next step for an organizer after sanctioning a contest is getting a state championship proclamation, but this isn't always the case, and it isn't required. A state championship proclamation is issued usually no sooner than 60 days before the event. Invitation to one or both of these contests is highly coveted by cooks!

Ok, I want to sanction my contest. Where do I go from here?

The best thing you can do is know your options, and in terms of getting information about them, one of the best resources available is the WWW. Many, if not all, BBQ sanctioning bodies have websites - several in the LA-TX area are listed on the "Helpful Links & Map" page of this site - check them out and see which suits your needs the best. Most of the sites have a link called "Sanctioning" or "How to sanction your contest" or "Sanction request" that should get you started - but be prepared for it to take up to 3-6 months to get word that your contest has been sanctioned. Most sanctioning bodies require that you get your request for sanctioning in at least 90 days before the intended date of your contest; some bodies also require a guarantee of your prize money, in writing. Look thru various calendars on the WWW for information on what existing contests are held when before you submit your date, and take possible conflicts into consideration - especially with local festivals and events that may be held in your area. (Keep in mind that it's not unusual for a BBQ team to travel several hundred miles to attend a contest!) It's a good idea to look at it from the perspective of a potential entrant in your contest - what problems, if any, might they have with the date you selected? Some sanctioning bodies also have rules about just how close contests happening on the same weekend can be - this is mainly due to the fact that some areas don't have all that many BBQ cooks, and dividing that small number between contests will likely cause all those contests to be under attended.

Once you have sanctioning approved and a date and a flyer for your contest, try and attend one or more contests in your area and introduce yourself to the cookers. Tell them about your contest and encourage them to attend! Cooks are much more likely to attend a new contest when they've met the organizer(s) instead of just seeing an announcement posted somewhere. Cooks are an excellent source of practical suggestions of dos and don'ts for your contest, in addition to what your sanctioning body tells you!


Those finishing in the top spots in sanctioned contests are also eligible for some other contests: