By Travis Sloat
Kenny Taylor and Kim Harris, part of team “Taylorhood,” weren’t offering to share any of their secrets at the 4th annual Smokin’ the Fort BBQ and Bluegrass Festival.
“This is my very first time in the competition,” Taylor said. “It’s been an experience.”
Close to 5,000 people walked the four block area in downtown Fort Gibson on Friday and Saturday, listening to live Bluegrass music and offering their tasting kit plates to the competitors, who loaded them up with lots of delicious, smoky barbecue.
Bill Berry, who is from Tahlequah, said a television news report on the festival brought him to Fort Gibson on Saturday.
“We had a soccer game over here too,” Berry said. “We decided we wanted to come try some barbecue. It’s all been fantastic. The food is delicious.”
When asked to pick his favorite, he had trouble deciding.
“Gosh, I can’t even pick one,” he said. “It’s all good. I’ll definitely be back next year.”
Thirty teams came together in competition on Saturday, offering up their best selections for a Kansas City Barbecue Society contest as well as a “Taster’s Choice” contest which was judged by several locals in the Chamber of Commerce office.
There was also an “Anything Goes” competition on Friday evening, as well as a “Kids’ Que” competition.
Governor Mary Fallin even declared Saturday “Smokin’ the Fort” day, in honor of the event and the town’s illustrious history.
The judges were treated to variations of beef, pork, chicken and even sausages, each with a unique taste, but sharing a common deliciousness.
Taylor said he was pulling out all the stops for his pork ribs, pork butt, and chicken.
“I’ve been smoking meat for a few years,” Taylor said. “I think what will win it for me will be the ribs.”
There was a chill in the air for most of the morning, but the bright sunshine and the feisty bluegrass music offered warmth to excited festival-goers.
Police Chief Clint Vernon said he spent most of his afternoon talking people into trying the police department’s barbecue.
“We all had fun. It was a blast,” Vernon said. “It was a way to have fun and let the community know we were out there. We spent a lot of time making folks laugh, but we didn’t win any prizes for our barbecue.”
Taylor said he thought the festival was a great thing for the town of Fort Gibson.
“It helps out with the economy and gets people into our town,” Taylor said. “This is an absolutely perfect place for an event like this. It shows Fort Gibson in a good light, and shows that we have a sense of community and pride.”