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MEMPHIS, Tenn.– The top pit masters and BBQ enthusiasts are here for Memphis in May’s World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.

For the first time in three years, the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest returns to Memphis with no restrictions.  Last year’s contest had fewer teams due to COVID.

“It’s great to see everybody cause our lives have changed a little bit,” said Ray Lampe, one of the judges.

While the restrictions may be lifted, the impact of the pandemic is still being felt as contestants deal with the impact of inflation. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows in the last 12 months the price of meats and poultry is up nearly 14 percent. All foods that will be eaten this week in the fairgrounds.

Despite inflation impacting the cost of meat, contestants at Barbecue Fest say it’s a cost they’re willing to pay if it means being able to compete in this year’s competition.

“It’s become like bass fishing or country club golf or any of that. Another 20 bucks for pork that’s not gonna stop anybody out here,” Lampe said.

At least 200 teams are competing for the grand prizes. Contestants like Phil Whingo of Pig Beach Barbecue say inflation has not impacted them too much.

“It’s a minor effect, you get to point where you’re spending 30,000 to be here for the weekend so a few more dollars,” Whingo said.

In an effort to save some money, Pig Beach Barbecue decided to rent some of their equipment locally, which was a cost-saving move many folks have found themselves doing during these times.

“It’s an investment. Like I said, I been cooking with these guys the last seven or eight years and you just get that bond together and you get it together and you make it work,” Whingo said.

Barbecue Fest runs until Saturday, May 14th and tickets start at $14. Click here for more information about this event.