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Preparing to sauce it up at Bowie Fest

VIDALIA — Pete Westmoreland’s barbecue sauce was so delicious, it could make a tennis shoe taste good — at least according to his daughter, Ann.

So when she was asked to help organize this year’s Jim Bowie BBQ Throwdown, Ann came up with the perfect way to commemorate her dad’s secret sauce and affinity for barbecue.

“After my dad passed in June, people started sending memorials to the barbecue fund instead of flowers,” Ann said. “My dad used to compete in this every year and even won fourth place in the whole hog category one year.

“So we came up with the idea to add a category in his memory.”

ROD GUAJARDO/The Natchez Democrat — Ann Westmoreland shows off the fourth-place trophy her father, Pete, won several year’s ago in a whole hog category barbecue contest. Ann helped organize this year’s Jim Bowie BBQ Throwdown and created a sauce category in memory of her father, who died in June.

With the addition of the final sauce category, the pieces of the barbecue puzzle were complete and the competition began taking shape.

This year’s BBQ Throwdown will pit 32 teams from across the country competing in five categories: chicken, pork butt, pork ribs, brisket and sauce.

Teams will have an entire day to marinate, season, smoke and cook their barbecue to perfection before volunteer judges evaluate the final product in a double-blind taste test.

“Each team will submit their plate with a randomly assigned number, and then we switch that number again before the judges get it,” Westmoreland said. “That way there’s no way for the judge to find out whose food they are eating and judging.”

Such a meticulous and extensive method of judging barbecue is necessary, Westmoreland said, when you’re dealing with a $10,000 cash pot prize.

“These teams have a chance to make a lot of money, but it’s also about bragging rights,” Westmoreland said. “These teams take barbecue very seriously.”

And the reason for such a large cash pot prize for this year’s BBQ Throwdown is because it’s the first year the event will be classified as a Kansas City BBQ Society sanctioned event.

The KCBS sports more than 15,000 members worldwide and sanctions more than 400 barbecue contests across the country.

In this contest, the grand champion will take home $2,000, followed by a reserve grand champion, a third overall grand champion and fourth and fifth place.

The contest is also classified as a Louisiana State Championship, which means the grand champion will get an invite to Kansas City Royal in Kansas City and a drawing to compete in the Jack Daniels cook-off in Lynchburg, Tenn.

And apart from the large prizes and bragging rights, Westmoreland said the event will also bring in much more for the City of Vidalia.

“This is going to bring in people from all of over Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the rest of the country,” Westmoreland said. “They’ll be staying here, buying gas and spending money so this is going to be a great event for our community.”

But the BBQ Throwdown is just one part of the Jim Bowie Festival, which takes place Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Vidalia Riverfront.

Friday night’s events include the Little Mr. and Miss Bowie Pageant beginning at 6 p.m. at the amphitheater.

Gates at the Vidalia Riverfront will open at 10 a.m. each morning.

Saturday’s events include live entertainment, food, skeet shooting, archery, horse and buggy rides, a waterless slide and miniature petting zoo among other things.

Events after 7 p.m. on Saturday are all adult orientated and include the Solid Gold Saturday Night dance event.

All events on Sunday are free and family oriented.

A special surprise entertainment guest will be performing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday as well as the announcements of the BBQ Throwdown and pageant winners.

Tickets for Saturday’s events can be purchased ahead of time at the Concordia Chamber of Commerce for $8 or at the gate for $10 for adults and $3 for children.

The tickets for Saturday’s dance are an additional $10.

For more information on the BBQ Throwdown or the festival, contact the chamber at 318-336-8223.