SIKESTON -- Involvement in the barbecue held the Saturday of rodeo fell a bit last year, when it changed from the Redneck Barbecue to the Community Cowboy Cookoff Contest. But in this second year, its gained strength and support.
"It's growing," said Shad Old, event chairman. Nine teams competed last year, while 12 have already signed up for Saturday's contest, with a few others showing interest.
"And this year we've had enough support by the area merchants that we're doubling the prize money," said Old.
The event, which is held at the Clinton Building in the Sikeston Complex, features four different categories: chicken, ribs, a chuckwagon surprise and beef brisket.
"We added the beef brisket this year," said Old. "The teams last year said they wanted something different -- and beef brisket is difficult to cook and takes longer."
He said the chuckwagon surprise is something that garnered a lot of interest -- and compliments -- at last year's cookoff.
"They are given a main ingredient and must prepare a dish with it within an hour," said Old, adding that last year's ingredient was a can of Spam. "They also must turn in the recipe, so we can give recipes out."
Learning new recipes like that is one of the purposes of the cookoff, said Old.
"The cookoff is a family atmosphere, but most of it is focused on the cooking expertise," he said. "People can talk to the teams about the seasonings and marinades -- that is the whole point of it."
Cooking teams have samples available for visitors to taste.
"And you're eating the finest barbecue that can be cooked, literally," said Old.
Old said another purpose of the event -- which began as the Chamber of Commerce's Redneck Barbecue 14 years ago -- is to offer another activity for rodeo attendees. "It was to offer the tourists that were here in town waiting on the rodeo that night something to do and some entertainment during the day," he said.
But it's become a tradition for several area residents. "There are so many people in town now that look forward to it," he said. It's something those who come in from other areas look forward to every year, too.
"We also have a lot of the rodeo cowboys coming down and sampling all the barbecue," said Old. In past years, rodeo clown Rick Young, plus rodeo royalty have also come, he said.
Competitors make up a mix of locals, as well as those from nearby areas. One noteworthy competitor is John Byrd of Dyersburg, Tenn., who has come to Sikeston several years with his team "Two Men and a Pig," has also been the national beef tenderloin champion for several years, said Old.
Other cookers include those who have won in sanctioned events. Old said that with the high gas prices, most teams are from the tri-state region. "But that also means that some of the more local teams that would travel elsewhere are coming to us," he said.
The trophies are a big draw -- which garnered several compliments -- said Old. They feature a full-sized meat cleaver with the Community Cowboy Cookoff logo on the blade, which is stuck into a block of wood. Winners also receive some prize money.
The cookoff will also feature raffles, a beer garden, entertainment, concessions and vendors and take home barbecue. T-shirts, aprons and other merchandise will be sold, too.
Spots are still available for teams that wish to compete. To sign up, or for more information, call Old at 471-9353.