What is an Eggfest: An Eggfest can be many things, but it is some or all of these things: a marketing event, a social event, a learning event, cooking competitions, a chance to get some great food, a chance to buy Eggcessories, a chance to mingle with fellow Eggheads and an all around good time. Each Eggfest is a little different, but they are often sponsored by an Egg dealer, an Egg distributer or the mothership in Atlanta (in the case of the Eggtoberfest). There are two types of attendees: Cooks and Tasters. The Cooks sign up and cook food all day for the attendees. The Tasters buy a ticket that gets them in and allows them to eat all of the prepared by the Cooks. The company sponsoring the event usually provides new BGE’s for the use of the cooks. At the end of the Eggfest the now used Eggs are sold off at a discount, usually in a package with a Nest (rolling cart/stand), shelves, a Platesetter and various other items. It is a marketing event because the best way to sell someone a Big Green Egg is to cook them some food on it. So potential BGE purchasers can come to the show and sample a wide variety of food cooked on the Egg. They can also pick the brains of the cooks and other Egg owners. There is often a store set up up on the site with various Eggcessories for sale. There are sometimes various types of cooking competitions. There are also door prizes and swag bags for the attendees.
Where: The NewEGGlandfest was held at Tarantin’s regional distribution center in Brentwood New Hampshire. This location is in Southeastern New Hampshire about 20 miles (32 km) away from the New Hampshire seacoast and 20 miles (32 km) north of the border with Massachusetts. As viewed on a map it is somewhat centrally located in the 6 state New England region. For me it was 42 miles (68 km) away and about a 1 hour drive. Not a biggie. I used to drive an hour to work, no problem driving an hour to play. I have met people there from Canada as well as New York and New Jersey.
When: It seems to fall on a Saturday in mid to late June and again this year was the week after Father’s Day. The specific date this year was June 26th.
Meet & Greet: There is also a Meet & Greet event held the night before, where Tasters and the Cooks can mix and mingle. There is a separate admission for this event and I have not attended it. Appetizers, beer, wine and soda are served and I think there are one or more demo cooks/classes during the event.
Early Registration: It pays to buy your ticket early when they first become available, usually sometime in early May. You pay less and get the official event T-shirt. After this cut-off date you pay more for the ticket and don’t get the T-shirt.
Advanced Prep: The event is held on a large, unshaded parking lot, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes. Wear comfortable clothes for the summer conditions, including light colored clothes, hats, sunglasses and most definitely sunscreen. For the last two years it has been hazy, hot and humid. This year it was cooler, but the right clothes were still a key to comfort. There is no shade at all out in the main cooking and circulation area. If you want to get in out of the sun for a while, there is a large cooling tent with plenty of seating . This tent also has the coolers filled with ice cold water, soda and juice. At this even beer and wine was available as part of the ticket price. Not all Eggfests serve alcohol, or you must pay for it. If this is important to you, check in advance so you’ll know how much cash you ma need to bring. Most importantly do bring an appetite. If you are like most folks, you will eat far more than you ever expected to.
What’s in it for Me?: Some great grilled or smoked food for one thing. Plus the opportunity to try some new and different foods on the grill or smoker. I know some folks who do not actually own Eggs, nor plan to buy one, who go to this event simply to sample some great grilled food. If you are an existing Big Green Egg owner you get the good food I just mentioned, plus some future inspirations for things you can make, a chance to talk shop with fellow Eggheads and a chance to learn some new things. For an individual thinking about buying an Egg, you get to sample some food ahead of time, you get to see the eye-opening variety of food you can cook on the Egg, talk to existing Egg owners and you also get to see that this isn’t some niche market grill. You will see there are a lot of folks using it and you will see that is well supported with accessories. If you are thinking of buying an Egg, but it is a shared/joint decision you will get everything I just mentioned pus a few other benefits. The other person making the decision will see that owning an Egg can definitely be a family experience. This is particularly true at these mid-sized local Eggfests where many of the teams are friends and families, men and women, ranging in age from 6 to 60 and beyond. Your S.O. will get to see the Egg does more than just smoke or just grill the typical bill of fare. You can deep fry, stir fry, grill, smoke or bake on it. It can make breakfast, lunch or dinner from appetizers to desserts. They will see this cooker isn’t a one trick pony, what it can be used for is limited only by the owner’s imagination. The unlimited scope of what you can use it for was my big takeaway from my first NewEGGlandfest. Be sure to try some pizza, it is one of the big selling points in favor of the Egg. Also make a point of finding cooks who are making things your S.O. likes. If the cook’s know what they are doing with their Eggs, the quality of the food will do most of the “selling” for you. Don’t feel like you are being sneaky bringing someone to this event, everything here is above board. You aren’t making up stories about how good the food is. Real people are cooking real food on the Egg and you get to try it for yourself to see if you want to take the plunge.
The Setup: Tarantin has a large facility located on a loop road for an industrial park off of NH 125. The facility has a large field and parking area in the back. This rear parking area was where the cooking, circulation and eating areas were located. Tarantin had one BGE themed van parked their entrance, as well as a large inflatable Big Green Egg balloon, which made the entrance hard to miss. They had their other BGEvan parked out at the intersection with Route 125.The large parking lot in the back was used for the Eggfest, the smaller lots on the sides were used for the cooks vehicles. Since it was Saturday, there was little traffic on the loop road and folks were directed to park anywhere along both sides of the road. There were many Tarantin employees there to direct people where to park. You entered the facility from the front corner and you found yourself in a showroom where all of the BGE’ s and Eggcessories were on display. From there you walked out the back door into the warehouse where registration tables were set up, one for folks with tickets and one for walk-ups. After picking up your badge and a swag bag ,you walked through a main aisle of the warehouse out to the back parking area. Immediately in front of you when you emerged from the rear door was a square seating area with tables and chairs under a very large tent. This year there was no judges table running up the left side of the tent, and no demo cook area. Along the right side were some tables where they served beer. I was surprised to find my ticket entitled me to free drinks all day. Once you walked through the seating/dining area tent there was a large L-shaped circulation space running along the front and left side of the tent. The Cook’s tents were arranged along the perimeter of this L-shaped circulation area. There are several porta-potties at one end of the circulation space closest to the entrance to Tarantin’s warehouse.
Cooking Area: Beyond the L-shaped circulation area, the cooking booths were arranged in the same L-shape around the outside perimeter. This year there appeared to be around 15-16 cooks tents, as opposed to low 20’s in 2013. The precise number is hard to say, because several of the cooks had multiple spots and there were also other areas where the tents were for separate cooks and happened to be immediately adjacent to one another. This year, the short leg of the L contained two cooks tents and the large trailers for the two BGE competition BBQ teams in attendance. The two competition teams have been there the 3 years I’ve attended: Smokin’ Aces and Yabba Dabba Que. Yabba Dabba Que is Eric & Cindy Mitchell’s team and if the name sounds familiar, he is the author of the Smoke It LIKE A PRO cookbook which came out this year.
The other cooks range from people who just love cooking on their Eggs to friends or family members who gather regularly to cook together on their Eggs. An example of this was a group of Eggheads from Highland Greens in Maine, which is a planned unit devotement for people over 55. They were wearing T-shirts reading “BBQ and Big Green Egg Masters”. There was another group of friends and family who called themselves the “Chuck Wagon” and who have been the 3 years I have attended. They regularly have an armada of 6 to 9 Eggs lined up along the front of their cooking area. There was another group of folks called “Char Wars” who were totally into Star Wars, from their garb, to their booth, to their food. They were borderline scary, but harmless and everything was in good fun. Some of these cooks had been to every NewEGGlandfest and had the t-shirts to prove it. One difference I noticed was NewEGGlandfest seems a little more family oriented than Eggtoberfest, probably due to a combination of lower travel and setup costs, and Eggtoberfest being more of a big deal. As I mentioned at NewEgglandfest many of the cooks tents were a family affair spamming 3 generations. The parents and older kids cooked and the younger kids helped give out the food. Sometimes the food was carried around on trays by younger children on foot or on roller blades.
The typical cooking area arrangement was a 10‘x10’ Ez-Up style popup tent covering a folding table where the food was laid out and served. There was typically a menu posted showing the foods they would be serving throughout the day and the approximate times it would be served. Right behind the table was an area where people were cooking on one or more Eggs. The competition teams brought all of their own Eggs, gear, and trailers, which makes sense because it gives them better control and familiarity. In the back, beyond the cooking area were various prep tables or trailers for prep and food storage. Some of the larger teams had multiple popup tents and multiple Eggs. As part of a being a Cook you get the use of a Large BGE. I am not sure what the arrangements are for the larger booths which had multiple Eggs. The show ends at 3:00PM and the loaner Eggs are allowed to cool down and they are sold off with some other Eggcessories at a reduced price. These Eggs were used for the Meet and Greet the night before and on the day of the Eggfest. This is a great way to get an Egg that has been used for only 2 days at a discount price. Considering a BGE may last for 20-30 years or more this is a very sweet deal. My third Big Green Egg was purchased this way.
Swag Bag: This year I had to hold off registering because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go. By not pre-registering by the cutoff date in the beginning of June I paid more for the tickets and missed out on the official T-Shirt. As usual we were given a green NewEGGlandfest bag, which contained a green, egg-shaped, plastic tray to help hold the food you picked up at the booths, a pad of BGE post-it notes, a wide green rubber band and a package with a 6”x12” (15x30 cm) grilling plank plus eight 6”x5” (15x13 cm) oval shaped Olive planks cut from logs and which still had the bark on. There was also a wrist band your wore to show you were registered, plus two tickets for a raffle at the end of the show. You must still be present to win a prize at the raffle. Lastly there was a ballot to vote in the People’s Choice awards for the best Cook’s booth. The oval-shaped plastic tray is very nice when you run out of hands to hold the food samples, forks, drinks etc. and I have used them at Eggtoberfest. This is a good deal IMHO. Particularly as an early registrant where I paid $25.00 (vs. $35.00) for the ticket. For $35.00 you get all the great food you can, free soda & water, the grill planks, bag and plastic tray. So no complaints from me about the cost of the event. Now I am sure Tarantin doesn’t get rich running this event, but I am sure they don’t take a loss either. Then of course there is the dollar value of the marketing aspects of this event.
The Event-Start: The event on Saturday started at 9:00AM. The cooks could arrive at 8:00AM to get a head start on things. Upon arrival I spent about 10 minutes looking at the showroom and arrived in the cooking area around 9:15. The cooking area was more filled than last year although some of this may have been due to a few more multi-tent cooking areas. The crowds were very light, which is one of the reasons I get there early. Sadly the cooks at only half of the booths already had food out. Another difference from my first year was what folks were cooking. In 2013 from 9:00 to 11:00 the cooks focussed on breakfast and switched to non-breakfast items. I am not sure whether this was a requirement of the show sponsors in 2013 year or not, but there seemed to be no such rules last year or again this year. Maybe about 25% of the food could be called breakfast related. My first year I was totally stuffed and ready to burst by 11:30. Last year and this year I did better. I have learned to pick my dishes carefully and not try to sample everything. Plus with people actually bringing trays of their food around to you, there are more temptations. By using some discipline and learning sometimes you just need to say no, I managed to stay under critical mass. As usual the quality of the food was every bit as good as the other years. When new food came off the Egg, it was often a raucous event. There was a booth that rang a cowbell, a few booths had folks walking or on roller blades skating around with trays of fresh food calling out what you should try and still other booths had someone shout out what was being served at the top of their lungs. It made for a rather festive atmosphere for all.
The Event-The Weather: The previous two years it was the 3 H’s: Hazy, Hot and Humid. This year the weather was supposed to be cloudy and cool. As it turned out it was the best weather yet. While I was making the hour long drive to get there it was overcast, but by the time we arrived the sun had come out and it stayed out the entire time I was there.The temps reached the high 70’s to low 80’s (25-28C). In fact I talked to several people who mentioned regretting their choice of dark clothing, which they wore thinking it was going to be cooler and cloudy. Considering the original forecast, you couldn’t have asked for better.
The Event-Chef Demos: In the last two years either Ray Lampe, aka Dr. BBQ or Linkie Marais were in attendance. They are both chef/spokespersons for the Big Green Egg company. They gave cooking demos, answered questions and generally acted as ambassadors of good-will for the Egg. These demos were interesting to me because they allowed you to see how the “pros” do it. This year I had two interesting discussions with two different cooks, who had attended prior year’s events. They had a different take on the subject. They liked the idea of no celebrity demos because it let the spot light shine more on the various cooks working the event. While I could see their perspective, I will agree to disagree-I miss the demos but it wasn’t a deal-breaker for me.
The Event - Yabba Dabba Que: Eric & Cindi Mitchell, who I had just seen at the Oasis Customer Appreciation Day 2 weeks ago, were participating in this event too. The food these two have served at these type of events over the past three years truly opened my eyes to the unlimited possibilities of the Egg. They were making some interesting dishes this time around too. They started the morning off with some Peach Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce from Eric’s recently released Smoke It LIKE A PRO cookbook. This was an eggellent (sorry) way to start off the day. A little later they served some Pulled Pork sandwiches and later in the morning they served some Pulled Pork Eggrolls also from the cookbook. Once again, they were both patiently fielding questions from the Taster’s. Late morning they set out some copies of Smoke It LIKE A PRO for sale. Eric was signing them for folks, and seemed to be doing good business.
The Event - Chuckwagon: This group has been a big presence here every year I have gone to this event. They are a group of friends and family spanning multiple generations who come together to cook on the Egg. They are always the biggest sized booth/cook tent. They have multiple popup tents that they form into a long rectangular shape. The long side of this rectangle is facing the aisle of circulation area and they have an armada of 6-7 Eggs arranged in a row along this long side. The area where the Tasters pick up their food is on the short side of the rectangle. With the large number of Eggs in use, there is a pretty steady flow of food coming off the Eggs. When the food is ready they ring a cowbell which can be heard all over the site. Some of the younger children walk around the site distributing the food or menus of what they will be cooking. At my first NewEGGlandfest they were cooking small whole pig on an XL which got them quite a lot of attention. This year they had a unifying theme of Island Treats. I sampled their Jamaican Jerk Ribs with Sweet Rum Sauce, Wannahockalui Beer Can Chicken, Marinated Pork Tenderloin and Sweet and Spicy Cajun Jambalaya. They were all excellent and evidently I wasn’t the only one who thought so: they won the voting for the People’s Choice Awards
The Event - Midday: By 11:00AM the crowds had picked up somewhat, but I was still a bit surprised that it never did get as crowded as the 2013 or even the 2014 shows. I had heard they sold through the Taster’s tickets, so they had the amount of folks they were hoping for. The pictures I have posted here of the venue are from 9:15-9:30 when folks were just beginning to trickle in. Taking the photos this early allows you to see the booths without the crowds. By 11:00 the crowds had picked up both in the circulation area and at the eating area. The circulation area was about 25 percent full, down from about 33 percent in 2014 and 50 percent in 2013. This actually made the event more pleasant because you weren’t constantly wading through large crowds. Also you stood a better chance of getting the food you were standing in line for at a Cook’s tent, the number of folks in line didn’t exceed the number of items coming off the Egg. The volume of food coming off the Eggs had picked up and included “traditional” BBQ fare like ribs, sausages, pulled pork, chicken wings plus pizza, chicken breast and some other typical grilled fare. Despite my promising myself to exercise restraint this year, I found myself returning for second helpings of several of the dishes being served. I just made up for it by resisting the temptation to try one of everything.
The Event - New Egghead Friends: Although this website is tiny in the grand scheme of things, thanks to some of the local Big Green Egg dealers it has been getting a decent amount of hits locally. Since my picture appears in several places on the site, once in a while I get recognized when I am at a grill related event or grill store. I experienced this for the first time last year where someone I had never seen before, smiled like they knew me and started walking in my direction. I assumed they recognized someone behind me, but then they stopped to greet me. This happened 3 times at this years show.
The first was a variation on this where someone in a group of people said: “There he is!” and began walking up to me. In this case it was one of the butchers who works at the local butcher shop I go to, one of the two brothers who is a butcher and co-owner and his uncle who used to work at this location. I was an hour away from home and I am used to seeing them in white butcher’s smocks so they were out of context so to speak. It took me a moment to go through my mental rolodex to put a name to a face. I often have my iPad with me for mapping purposes, and I don’t like to leave it in a cold or hot car. They often remember what I bought the last time and ask me how it turned out. If I had my iPad with me I would show them some pictures of the things I made using their meats. In the process of doing that, I had told them about Big Green Eggs and this particular event. Still I was a bit surprised to see them, because I didn’t think they were in the market for an Egg. As it turned out several of them mentioned they might be interested in getting one at some point. Plus they appeared to be enjoying themselves.
The second person who recognized me I had actually never met before, we had only exchanged some emails. He lives one town away from me and the Big Green Egg dealer in his town had referred him to my site. He recognized me from a couple of the pictures of the site. He was there with his dad and they too appeared to be having fun. He had recently emailed me and asked where I bought my meat locally. It turns out he had started buying meat from there too, and he had bumped into the butcher’s in his travels around the show too.
The last person I had never met before, although I had met her husband. Two weeks ago at my dealer’s Egg event I spent some time talking to her husband and gave him the url for this site. It seems she had visited the site and recognized me from my pictures on the site. She had the final decision on whether to buy their first Big Green Egg and she had come to NewEGGlandfest to help make a decision. She told me she was already strongly leaning in that direction after visiting my site and reading and seeing all of the things I had done with my Egg. After tasting some of the food at NewEGGlandfest she said they were definitely buying an Egg.
So while it is rather surreal having people you’ve never met recognize you, it is nice too. I mean that in the sense that it is good to know that some of the things I have shown or written about have helped other folks too. That was one of my goals for the site. Three years ago I had to learn to cook on a charcoal grill and learn a somewhat different way of grilling when I switched to the Big Green Egg. I figured what I was learning might help other shorten their own learning curves, so I made a point of trying to record what I was learning in my blog..
Wrap Up: Even with the possibly lower booth count and seemingly lower attendance, I really enjoyed NewEgglandfest 2015. In fact I enjoyed it as much as any of the others and maybe a little more: Less people made for less waiting. I will definitely be attending again next year. As is typical, the Cook’s made plenty of excellent food. I love the wide variety of food types, from breakfast to dessert and everything in between. My only disappointment was the absence of any cooking demos by Big Green Egg spokespeople, but this isn’t the end of the world either. Not sitting through 2 or 3 demos allowed me to finish up earlier and get home and make some food on my own Eggs. I said this before and I’ll say it again: If your are an Egghead, or are thinking of buying an Egg or know someone who is in the market for a new grill, you should plan on hitting a local Eggfest. The best way to sell someone on the Egg is to cook something on it and let them try it out. These festivals help show you all of the creative ways you can use the Big Green Egg.