I'm pretty sure I know which contest you are speaking of. I emailed the organizer and was told "We can use you, I will email details on Monday". I never got an email, never got a reply to my followup email. At that point, I decided not to drive 2 1/2 hours on a maybe. I guess I was the missing CBJ.
Also, table assignments should never be 'go find a seat'.
Mike Chief Cook - When Pigs Die CBJ - KCBS