Barbecue duel highlights annual festival

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 30, 2003

VIDALIA, La. &045; Jim Bowie &045; a very hard man to kill, as Jack Edmundson said during the re-enactment of the Sandbar battle at high noon Saturday &045; was the namesake and inspiration of this weekend’s 15th annual Jim Bowie Festival.

Rides, funnel cakes, fun, arts and crafts, music and don’t forget the barbecue highlighted this year’s festival. This year was the inaugural year of the largest part of the festival &045; the Bowie Barbecue Duel. While these teams drew their tongs instead of pistols, the many barbecue enthusiasts competed for the right to be the Louisiana State Barbecue Champion and in turn the Grand Champion of the event, with the right to a spot in Memphis in May to compete for the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.

The duel was sanctioned by Memphis in May, meaning the judges, coordinators and teams had guidelines to follow but the ultimate prize is competing in the world championship. There were 18 teams in Vidalia Saturday, ranging from locals to winners from past Memphis in May competitions. They brought their best whole hog, pork shoulders and pork ribs out for the 40-plus judges to see.

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Ubon’s Bar-B-Q of Yazoo was in town, a 12-year veteran at Memphis in May competition. The lone team member in attendance was Brian Campbell, representing the team, together with his family. Campbell only entered the whole hog competition, because, he said, that is his specialty. His teammates were unable to attend, not there to pick up the other events.

The team has its own Ubon rub, marinade and sauce available in stores and, in fact, the founder, Ubon Roark, was instrumental in teaching many people how to cook barbecue throughout the years.

What most people probably do not know about the competitors that are barbecuing most weekends is that they all really become a close-knit group of friends. Don’t go around another team when they are about to be or are being judged, but before and after, the teams can been seen together, talking about the next weekend or old memories.

&uot;We do it for fun and because we like to meet people,&uot; said Margie Fromm of Backyard Roasters in Columbus.

This weekend there were a few other close venues as well as the Vidalia site, but the contestants were impressed with the facilities at their choice for the weekend.

&uot;This is one of the best first year contests I’ve been to,&uot; Kevin Jones, part of the grand champion winning team Huff N Puff said.

Jones thanked the organizers for the event, saying many venues in southwest Mississippi have fallen to the wayside and it was good for a local team to have this competition as an option.

Jones and his team, from Port Gibson, took home the overall prize for having the best product of the day in their whole hog.

&uot;I’m a hog cook by heart,&uot; Jones said.

And his hard work paid off in the form of $1,000 and a huge trophy, carved of wood, with a ornamental butcher’s knife on top, commemorating his win.

On the other side of U.S. 84, at the old site for the festival, the old courthouse, children ages 2 to 18 years old hauled in bags of fish.

The 14th annual D.A.R.E. fishing tournament drew its largest crowd ever with 673 children participating. As Buz Craft, local pro-fisherman, weighed in the catches, the largest of the day came from 10-year-old Ty Cain. He caught a 14.23-pound silver carp on Old River this morning.

The excitement was mounting near the end of the weigh-in on how large was the largest fish. Just before Cain stopped in, barely beating the clock for weigh-in, Jared Burnette, 14, brought in a 7.75-pound catfish, also from Old River.

It must have been a good day of fishing on Old River, as if the huge 14-plus pounder Cain was carrying, with help, of course, was not enough evidence, he said it was a &uot;real good one.&uot;

&uot;This is the luckiest catch I’ve had all day,&uot; Cain said.