The smell of barbecue was in the air for the third annual Mountain High BBQ Festival and Car Show held Friday and Saturday, at the Wayne Proffitt Agricultural Center located on Highway 441 South.
The two-day event was hosted by the Franklin Chamber of Commerce and was sanctioned by the Official Kansas City Barbeque Society. This year, events included the famous BBQ contest, the “tastin’ tent,” a beauty pageant, a car show, live entertainment, and various vendors, including wares of all kinds from canned BBQ sauce to homemade totes, wood carvings, and candles.
The fairground gates opened at 11 a.m. on Friday, with a full day of entertainment. New to the entertainment line-up this year was the Koss Motor Sports Car Show. Everyone was invited to enter their cars; all makes and models were accepted. About 80 cars were entered. Each participant received a trophy, however the car that earned the highest point score was named the Grand Champion for the car show at the awards ceremony on Saturday.
The rain did not dampen the spirit of most of the car enthusiasts for long. After people sought shelter from the mid-afternoon showers, the cars were dried off to where they were shiny and people were stopping by to admire them once again.
Friday's excitement was wrapped up by exceptional performances by The Hoss Howard Band and the Dallas Reese Band. Hoss Howard has become a very generous artist. “Hoss is a big man with a big heart, an even bigger voice, and the songs he writes; simply amazing,” says Scott Hooger. Hooger is Hoss’s manager, and has watched Hoss grow into a selfless and giving artist that country music can be proud of. Hoss is a veteran of the Gulf War and is quite devoted to his family. Hoss’s music is a mixture of traditional country and southern rock. Hoss has been the opening act for such big names like John Anderson, Diamond Rio, Joe Diffie, The Bellamy Brother and NASCAR. When he is playing those shows, he and his band are playing charity events.The Dallas Reese band is from Charlotte, and has been entertaining crowds since 1998. Jack Haggart, a favorite local musician, also performed several well-known country hits both evenings. Haggart adds a personal touch to the current country hits that he performs. He has earned a number of country and gospel music awards including the 2010 North American Country Music Association Male Vocalist Award. Haggart has played in such famous venues as Loretta Lynn's Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Missour and Tootsies in Nashville. When Haggart is not onstage performing, he fits into any crowd as anyone would.
On Saturday, another new venue was added to the festival fun with the “Miss Mountain High” Natural Beauty Pageant. Girls ages birth to 16 years old could enter the contest, which was divided up into eight separate age groups. In keeping with the southern/BBQ theme of the festival, the girls were asked to wear attire that had a country or western flair. Every contestant received recognition and a trophy, however, the “Miss Mountain High BBQ Festival” was made queen for the day; complete with a sash, crown, two-foot trophy and all the ranks and privileges of the title. Most visitors came to the festival for the BBQ. Visitors could walk down a line of tents where each BBQ master chef was sporting “the best ever” BBQ. Each BBQ connoisseur was offering samples and selling platefuls of ribs, chicken and pork. Jo-Jo Leddy and Beth Frye, from Franklin, work at Essynce of Beauty. The two ladies shared that they enjoy coming to functions like the festival. “Whenever there is a gathering like this in Franklin, it is always really big,” said Leddy. “It is just a big friendly function and everyone looks really happy.” Frye mentioned the one bad thing about the festival. “We ran out of food way too fast,” she said.
On Saturday, a crowd gathered to fill the Tastin' Tent. Participants had the chance to judge 10 different kinds of BBQ. Twooz cups of BBQ were only labeled with numbers and each person voted for the number they believed to be the best. The number with the most votes was named “Franklin's Favorite” at the award's ceremony. Gary Duw of Wilson, N.C., who came to Franklin to visit his friend, Ronald Elliot, said he has tasted many different kinds of BBQ before, therefore, he felt qualified to choose a winner.
Southern Smoke BBQ from Rosman, N.C., is a family operated team. They have been cooking BBQ professionally for contests and festivals for almost 10 years. “We have gone all over, we have won all over,” said Ben Galloway, the head of the Southern Smoke BBQ team. Everything they make is homemade, including the pit that they built themselves, and all of the recipes are family recipes. “Our coleslaw recipe was our grandmother's recipe,” said Galloway. He explained some of the secrets that makes exceptional BBQ.
“It is a lot of trial and error,” he said. “The key to everything is temperature regulation, what type of meat you buy and how long you cook it and for how hot.” According to the KCBS regulations, the only cooking methods allowed are wood and charcoal. Galloway explained that cooking with wood is a lot different than with propane or in a conventional oven. “It is not a set it and forget it scenario. Anything you eat here is going to be cooked for no less than seven hours,” he said. “This is as oldfashioned as it gets ... what we are doing here, between the sauce recipe and how we prepare the meat, covers four generations.”
The Blue Blood team was competing this year however. The team, who sports the motto “Bar B Que so good it should be a crime,” is run by David and Celest Mauro. The Blue Bloods are from Hammond, La., and this was their first time ever to the Mountain High Festival. They brought with them a recipe from Louisiana with a slight cajun flair. “Everyone cooks the meat at different temperatures; some do it low and slow at 225 degrees or 230 degrees or 250 degrees and some do it fast and hot at 300 degrees,” said David Mauro describing his opinion of what makes outstanding BBQ. “You just find a temperature that works for you and with a pit that you can learn, then find different recipes and flavors that work for you and see if it works or not.” Mauro mentioned that he does not make a living at cooking BBQ but rather “it is a hobby ... an expensive hobby.” But the time and effort he has put into finding the perfect BBQ combination has paid off because The Blue Bloods have already won one Grand Championship event previously this year. For Saturday's competition they earned second place in the “Anything Butt” category, third place in the Dessert, first place in Chicken, third place in Pork Ribs and second place in the backyard overall division.
Members of the Smoke This BBQ team are from Hickory, N.C. They have been competing professionally since 2004 and have won two Grand Championships. “Very few have done that,” said Scott Jarrett, the top cooker for Smoke This BBQ. “There are some people that have been cooking for years and have never won that.” They have been to the Mountain High BBQ Festival every year. “We make sure that we buy quality meat and we have three different cookers and we use our own rubs and sauces,” he said. “It is a good contest ... we are happy to be here and are looking forward to coming back next year.”
The BBQ contest is a North Carolina State Championship where teams from all over the country gather to prepare their finest BBQ, hoping to be named the Grand Champion. There were three catagories on Friday for the best sauce recipe, “Anything Butt” category and the best dessert. The winners of these three catagories were awarded $150 each. On Saturday there were five catagories including, chicken (pro & backyard), ribs (pro & backyard), pork (pro & backyard), beef brisket (pro only) and the Tastin' Tent for Pork Butt pieces. The Grand Champion was awarded $2,000 and a trophy, the Reserve Grand Champion was awarded $1,000 and a trophy. The first place for each meat division was awarded $750 plus a trophy, second place was awarded $400 and a trophy and third place was awarded $300 and a trophy. There were 56 pro teams from 10 different states and 12 backyard teams from 5 different states.
The people's choice award from the Tastin' Tent went to Pickin' Porkers and the Grand Champion of the Mountain High BBQ Festival 2011 was Smokehouse Mafia. Smokehouse Mafia received a $2,000 check and a plaque. The Reserve Grand Champion was the Swamp Boys.
Isabella Bushman waves to the judges.