Jeff Allen, executive director of the National Barbecue Association, has one prediction about the week of March 4–8 in San Marcos.

“It’s going to be wild. But the good kind of wild,” he said.

The city will play host to pitmasters and barbecue enthusiasts from throughout the nation at the 2014 National Barbecue Association Conference at the Embassy Suites Hotel & Conference Center.

Confirmed speakers include Kent Black of Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart; Texas Monthly Barbecue Editor Daniel Vaughn; and Tim Mikeska of Mikeska Brands Texas Bar-B-Q.

Black will speak on the history of one of Texas barbecue’s signature dishes: sausage. The dish’s popularity and place among the state’s “Holy Trinity”—brisket, ribs and sausage—can be traced back to the German and Mexican immigrants who settled much of Central Texas.

“The style of sausage in Central Texas is very unique,” Black said. “You don’t find it in many other places. Central Texas is a great melting pot of folks who came here—Germany, Mexico, Native Americans that were here. It’s a real interesting blend.”

In addition to Texas-style barbecue, the conference will examine the trends emerging in Kansas City-style, Memphis-style and Carolinas-style barbecue.

In the age-old argument of “sauce versus no-sauce,” Allen comes down decidedly in favor of the supplement to ‘cue. But choosing a favorite style of barbecue is no easy task for Allen.

“I’ll have to plead the fifth on that one,” he said. “Barbecue is very regional and people are very particular about their barbecue, and that’s fine. But one thing we want to do is bring everybody together and say ‘Whatever your style is, it’s all barbecue and we should all celebrate it together.'”

Members of the public are invited to participate in the event on Saturday, which will feature a steak cook-off, barbecue sauce tasting, live music and more. Entry to the event on Saturday costs $10.

Allen said event organizers are expecting 350 guests to attend the conference, as well as 400 additional guests from the public to attend Saturday’s festivities.

“Everything is shaping up to be really good,” Allen said. “I think this is going to be our best conference yet. The Embassy Suites is just going to be jam-packed. Their parking lot is going to have all kinds of [meat] smokers and rigs and stuff from people in the competition.”


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