I agree! When cooking for hundreds, it is near impossible to prepare top quality Q. That is why I tend not to compare restaurant Q or Festival Q to my own.....I can afford to babysit my stuff and they cannot.
Having said that, I have attended many, many festivals over the years and I will stick by my mediocre comment. Fact is, I have only tasted 3 teams that I would pay money to eat their ribs. The others were all VERY mediocre.
Fact is, their ribs are often cooked far ahead of time! I found this out last year during our Q Fest here in town. 2 of the teams paid my butcher to store their ribs...700 slabs each! The ribs came in 2 days prior and were already cooked! I am not saying every team does this, but I have to assume many do. When you do that, the quality will suffer and you end up with mediocre ribs.
As I stated earlier, the cook-offs are not a spectator sport and quite honestly this is troubling! We have tried to get the public involved, but when it comes to giving food away, the Health authorities simply won't let it happen. Many of the teams(me included) don't want the hassles of vending, so, the public ends up with nothing...NOT good! And, needless to say, sitting around watching ribs cook is rather...boring. LOL
It is also true that getting to know a team is difficult, especially without an advance intro. While I truly believe most teams are very accomodating and willing to chat, when it comes to Saturday morning..the peak of activity for the public...teams are just too busy preparing for turn-ins. So, you have lots of crowds looking to sample/talk, while the teams are far too busy to visit. Overall, NOT a good thing for spectators.
In the end, I think we are in agreement.
You may have a chance to come and cook with me! We compete in Madison, IN which is right down the road from you. I will drop you a line when the time comes! Would love to meet you and compare tall lies! LOL