By Gary Perkins
The fifth annual "Smokin' the Fort-BBQ & Bluegrass Festival," officially kicked off this past Friday, as many of the nearly 30 Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) began arriving and setting up, there always-impressive smokers and motor homes.
The streets of downtown Fort Gibson quickly became filled with the aroma of smoked meat of all varieties. Many of the Taster's Choice cookers also showed up early to began preparing their delights that the public would be able to sample and vote for their favorite. As evening fell, there were plenty of early samples to go around of what was to come Saturday.
Additionally, Armstrong Bank, led by Justin Calvert, set up their usual tent, serving free dinners to all who passed their way, as did American Bank of Oklahoma, led by Gabe Mosteller. Many of the other groups were also serving early samples, including the Clinkenbeard Agency, American Legion, Fort Gibson Police Department, and SonBurst Graphics. Our KCBS representatives, Ralph and Karen Williams, from Fort Smith, Ark., had been on hand since Thursday, when they taught our first-ever KCBS Certified Judges Class that was attended by 23 individuals. Friday evening, they also conducted the Kids Que Cooking Competition, which was won by Anna Eby and Ally Smith, with Zach Cooper coming in second in the 11-to-15 age group. The Anything Goes Competition, was won by Wildcatter's Q Crew for desserts, and Moo Chew Sooy for the "Anything Butt" entree category. Cash prizes were awarded, as well as special medals for the kids. Around the gazebo Friday evening, several bluegrass bands were just hanging out and jammin', by playing their special music. It was a great start to the main event, that would take place on Saturday.
Saturday morning, the smoke still filled the air, and the food and merchandise vendors started to arrive, along with two camels that would provide rides for those who felt so inclined. The vendors were instructed that they could sell anything except meat items or drinks, which was reserved for the Chamber of Commerce, who sold both drinks and taster kits so that the public could sample all the "Taster's Choice" portion of the competition. There was plenty of meat to go around for the approximately 1,000 kits that were sold, along with drinks and T-shirts.
The weather cooperated with a nice breeze and perfect temperatures, and no rain. Bluegrass music was provided by the live bands, Kenny Cantrell Band, Meyer Family, and Lonesome Road Bluegrass Band. Around 11 a.m. Saturday, the 30-plus KCBS certified judges started their task of picking winners in each of the four categories, recognized by KCBS — chicken, ribs, pork, and brisket. It was estimated that approximately 5,000 people showed up for the two days of Smokin' the Fort.
As all the smoke began to recede, the following teams were announced as winners for the more than $7,000 in cash prizes and awards. Top three winners in each of the categories, were: Chicken — 1st, The American Dream BBQ; 2nd, Wildcatter's Q Crew; and 3rd, Fire Dancer. Ribs — 1st, Butcher BBQ; 2nd, The American Dream BBQ; and 3rd, Lotta Bull BBQ. Pork — 1st, Whiskey Pit BBQ; 2nd, Fire Dancer; and 3rd, The American Dream BBQ. Brisket — 1st, The American Dream BBQ; 2nd, Wildcatter's Q Crew; and 3rd, Sizzlin' Bones BBQ. The Grand Champion Team was American Dream BBQ, with Wildcatter's Q Crew the Reserve Grand Champion. All received cash awards, totaling more than $6,000, with payments made to the 10th place in each category.
Winners of the Taster's Choice, based on the judges, were First Place, SonBurst Graphics; 2nd Place, Pigs BBQ (Fort Gibson Police Department); and 3rd Place, Greazzy Fender BBQ. Each won a cash prize. Winner of the People's Choice was Ranger Creek BBQ, and they won a plaque.
I especially want to thank some very special individuals, along with all the competitors, judges, vendors, and KCBS participants. Especially, Brad Clinkenbeard, Steve Woods, Alissa Gage, Mike Williams, Kenny Taylor, Kathy Perkins, Cheryl Hill, Linda Clinkenbeard, Tonia Cooper, Olyvia Hill, Justin Young, David Perry, Tim Ryals, and the Town of Fort Gibson. These individuals put more time and effort into making this event what it is, than you can imagine. Countless hours are spent in planning and preparation.
Although the event is sponsored by the Fort Gibson Chamber of Commerce, the event wouldn't happen without the support of our sponsors. We want to thank all of them, especially our major sponsor, Cherokee Nation-Fort Gibson Casino, along with Ross Construction, Century 21-Clinkenbeard Agency, Cook Construction, Armstrong Bank, Direct Traffic Control, Advance Workzone Services, Cook Consulting, SonBurst Graphics, Home Turf of Muskogee, Fort Gibson State Bank, Edward Jones Investments-Mark Young, Tahlequah City Hospital, Abbott's Farm Bureau Insurance Agency, Miller-Edwards Buick GMC, Hamlin's El Toro, Hughes Lumber Company, Fort Gibson Nursing Home, Charlie's Chicken-Fort Gibson, OG&E, Renfro Electric, Cooper Construction, Perry Financial Services-New York Life, Simple Simon's Pizza-Fort Gibson, Valu-Med Pharmacy, State Senator Earl Garrison, ServiceMaster Elite Cleaning & Restoration, Big Dave's Performance, Muskogee Marble & Granite, Native American Merchant Services, Dr. Michael Nelson, DDS, Fort Gibson Chiropractic, Love Bottling, and Harp's Food Store.
A fantastic event, that gets bigger and better each year.