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Bar-B-Screwed: Autry Hosts World's Worst BBQ Festival

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Either the folks at the Autry are the world's stupidest event planners, or they are the world's most deceptive ones. BBQ'n at the Autry is the first and only barbecue festival I've ever been to, where attendees weren't allowed to sample barbecue from the vendors in the competition. And the fact that this wasn't clearly and prominently mentioned in advance of the festival was a giant "fuck you" to all the people who came out expecting a day of food and fun.

"BBQ'n at the Autry" was a flat-out scam. A bait-and-switch, where attendees were lured to Griffith Park and expected to plunk down $10 for the privelege of smelling wonderful roasted meats that they would never be able to taste.

There's one simple phrase to describe the travesty that was "BBQ'n at the Autry": Worst Food Festival Ever.

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I didn’t come to stare at bottles of barbecue sauce and cans of tinned corn.

I CAME TO EAT BARBECUE!

In copious quantities...

From numerous different vendors...

In a festival environment.

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Is that so hard to grasp? Do the people at the Autry truly not understand the basic premise of how a food festival works? When you go to a tofu festival, you expect to eat tofu. When you go to a garlic festival, you expect to eat garlic. And when you go to a BBQ festival, you damn well expect to eat BBQ.

My fellow glutton and I arrived late in the afternoon, ravenous and excited about sampling food from the 32 vendors who were prominently advertised on billboards, banners and the Autry's own Web site. Instead we were greeted by the above sign informing us that the only barbecue we'd be able to eat was from the (count 'em) three "approved vendors" or at the Autry's cafeteria.

!!!!!!!!!!!!????????????WHAT????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!
I wanted to be sure I'd read that right, because nowhere in any of the advance promo literature I'd seen was this crucial fact EVER mentioned. There's no mention of it on the Autry Web site. In fact, the site even says, "Sample the tastes of Q'n competition." The only thing I found mentioning this fact was a quarter-page ad in the LA Weekly with this miniscule, nearly unreadable disclaimer in 4-point font: Due to health regulations, contestants may not provide samples for tasting. Food will be available for purchase from licensed vendors. (The red underline is my addition.)

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Clearly, this wasn't some last minute occurrence caused by poor planning or an overzealous health inspector. It was a deliberate choice planned well in advance. And it was a deliberate choice to mislead people by not mentioning this fact in advance. Shame on the Autry for putting on such a lame festival. Shame on the Autry for smearing the storied tradition of barbecue cook-offs. And shame on the Autry for pulling this con job.

As for the three "licensed vendors," you know who they were? The same three purveyors of crappy, watered-down, overpriced "barbecue" you see every time you go to Sunset Junction, Coachella, Gay Pride or any street fair in Los Angeles. And because there were only three booths selling food, the line at each one was over 100 people long. At that rate, it would've taken an hour to get some grub.

If it wasn't already clear, you been swindled. You been had. You been hoodwinked, bamboozled and led astray!

My co-glutton and I did the only thing two footloose and fancy-free barbecue lovers could do: we fled the Autry's sad, sorry little dump of a festival and hightailed it to Zeke's Smokehouse in Montrose, where they were happy to sell us all the hush puppies, ribs, brisket, chicken, links, beans, cole slaw and cobbler we could stuff in our faces.

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