MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Kim Lodge and his family have been flying from Canada to Memphis for 20 years to compete in the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking contest.

“One you come here, you get hooked,” Lodge said. “It’s like a little holiday, ten days every May.”

By Sunday, over 200 teams began setting up their tents and preparing their grills for a week of cooking.

“It’s just great to come here and compete with family and friends and socialize,” Lodge said. “It’s like I have a little family in Memphis that I have known since 2001.”

With the Liberty Bowl as the backdrop to this year’s competition instead of the Mississippi River or Downtown, competitors said it definitely has a different feel.

However, those like James Cook of the People’s Republic of Swina said they are happy to have the competition back in full swing.

“I have gotten to know a lot of the other teams in the park and know them well enough to know their kids and to watch them grow up for the past 15 years,” Cook said. “It’s just a fun atmosphere, and I am really excited for the week.”

With many COVID restrictions lifted, teams like Lodge’s Kill ‘Em & Grill ‘Em Que are back for the first time since 2019. Vice President of Marketing and Programming Randy Blevins said he is excited for the return.

“Because of COVID, international travel restrictions meant that many of our foreign and international teams were not able to compete, so we are thrilled to be back at full force this year,” Blevins said.

The competition kicks off Wednesday with “Family Night.’