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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Eggtoberfest—Not all it’s cracked up to be

On the infield at the Atlanta Motor Speedway is where Eggtoberfest is taking place. We arrive just after noon Saturday.

Mark’s wanted a Big Green Egg since this summer. According to the manufacturer, it’s the “world’s best smoker and grill!” But it’s expensive. We didn’t want to pay $1000+ for the cooker and necessary Eggcessories. Mark learns of Eggtoberfest, coinciding with a trip we’ve already planned, where demos are sold at a 29% discount. He reserves one before we leave Ohio.

Upon entrance, everyone gets “goodie” bags filled with coupons; wild-game-and-fish cook books; little Big Green Egg Christmas ornaments from 2007 (we went last month); spicy meat rubs; and Big Green Egg hand towels, T-shirts and commemorative pins and patches.

A couple race cars speed around the track the entire five hours we’re there. Wow, are they loud.

About 70 tented cooking booths are set up, each with at least three Eggs, and if we pass at the right time, we can sample what is cooked. “At the right time” is key, because samples run out quickly. We taste potato soup, sausage, bruschetta, prime rib, salmon, pizza, zucchini, spaghetti squash, a pasta dish and chicken wings. Together, that sounds like a lot, but the samples are tiny.

While we wait for a father/son team’s wings to cook, the father tells us he has had his Egg for one season only, just learned about this Eggtoberfest and decided to participate, a fun way to spend the weekend.

Lots of people must have felt the same because it seems just more than half of the booths provide samples for paying guests. Families sit in folding chairs under their tents, sometimes kids run around, and they cook their lunches on their supplied grills but provide nothing for attendees.

Some booths are peopled by producers of rubs and BBQ sauces, and they cook a steady supply, and cooking demonstrations are scheduled each hour at the stage. But, overall, it’s a letdown.

The musical entertainment is good. One guy, a songwriter, collaborated with Brad Paisley and Jamey Johnson and sings those hit songs plus others. Only about 10 people stand or sit in front of the stage, so we get a quality, semi-private concert.

The cards we received upon entrance say there’s a kids’ “of all ages” area so I take advantage. I don’t go in the bouncy house. At birthday parties for nieces and nephews I enter and throw kids around, which they love, but I think it wise not to do that with strangers’ children. So while Mark hangs back at the concert, I stand in line for the bungee/trampoline jump with about eight kids, none of whom stand taller than my bellybutton.

The contraption is like a slingshot: bungee cords hang from two poles about 25 feet high and attach at the hips to a harness the person wears. The person jumps on what looks like a trampoline but it’s not bouncy, just fabric stretched out.

The operator asks my weight and attaches all the bungees to my harness. I start jumping and wish I had about 40 more pounds on me because getting a good push-off is tough: The bungees are holding me up. Eventually I get in a rhythm of up and down and after five or eight jumps I start a backflip. At the top of the jump I start descending at just half past rotation. I’m head-down and can only see the white sky. I scream. I pull with everything I have on the bungee cords to keep from falling on my head, but of course I finish the rotation before I land. My feet hit off center, and I start in a horizontal direction. I could really get moving this way as the bungees are situated to control vertical movement, not horizontal, but there are people and machinery in front of me, and, I assume, kids and their parents still in line behind me. And Mark too as he’s come over to watch.

I rein my movement in to a mostly vertical plane. I achieve some height in several more jumps and do two more backward flips—with no screaming—before calling it quits. My biceps are as fatigued as I’ve ever experienced, from pulling down on the bungees at my sides—in a fruitless effort to keep myself from falling. Although I’m breathless with exertion and from anxiety, I’m glad I did it.

Mark and I go hang out in our car and wait to pick up our Egg. Cooking stops at 3 p.m. to allow Eggs to cool before pick up, scheduled to start at 5 p.m. However, the line doesn’t move until an hour after that! Tired of sitting, I walk up the line of 40 or so vehicles in front of us. As expected, most are from Georgia, several from Tennessee and one each from Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky. I talk to folks in a truck from Ohio, up near Canton. They give me their cell number and agree to transport our Egg if it doesn’t fit in our Saab.

It fits perfectly buckled into the front seat. I ride home in the back with the accompanying Eggcessories. My car still smells like grilled chicken.