ATLANTIC CITY - Think Atlantic City cuisine, and the first examples that come to mind may be seafood and saltwater taffy. But organizers of this weekend's event want Atlantic City to be associated with a new taste: Barbecue.

The first Do AC Smokin' Hot BBQ Competition, which wrapped up Sunday, featured 85 teams from across the country competing for a $50,000 purse, including a $10,000 grand prize, that organizers hope will grow over the years to become the largest such purse in the United States.

"It has been absolutely phenomenal," said Ronnie Cates, of Smoke on the Water Productions. "We've had an unbelievable turnout" - more than 5,000 Saturday and Sunday, event coordinator Bill Egan said - "and everyone here, from judges to teams, said what a wonderful place Atlantic City is."

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The competition, held on a lot on Pacific and Maryland avenues, across from Showboat Casino Hotel, had to turn away 60 teams because of lack of space, Cates said.

Cates said the plan is for the purse to be increased by $50,000 every year until the event is the largest, or one of the largest, of its kind by 2017.

Certified judges - including former boy-band member Joey Fatone and At The Shore Editor Scott Cronick - selected Chix Swine and Bovine, of Jessup, Md., as the grand champion. The team also won the chicken competition.

"This was the biggest contest out there," said Corey Brinson, of the Fayetteville, N.C., Fatbacks BBQ and Rib Shack. "It's pretty great, man, very well organized."

"Running water would have been helpful," cautioned Doug Anderson, of Media, Pa., with team Smokin' S'wine. "But I can't complain. Everybody treated us very nicely."

Mary and Anthony Tyree, of Rocky Mount, Va., said they didn't even know the event was happening before seeing it advertised on the way into town.

"I love it," Anthony said. "I got her into 'Pitmasters' on TV."

"We're looking at the different grills and smokers," Mary Tyree said. "We just finished going and getting some of the free barbecue (for the People's Choice event, open to the first 25 entrants). We got a sample of a lot of tastes."

Anna Maria McGehean, of Egg Harbor City, saw the event on the Atlantic City tourism website.

"I decided we're going to go in and have some dinner tonight," she said, after she finished chewing. "This pulled pork is delicious."

Contact Steven Lemongello:


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