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Saturday, July 13, 2024

If you can’t beat the heat, join it: Smokin’ on the Pecos set for June 24-25

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6-19-SOTPLogoAs temperatures in Artesia creep into the 100s, the minds of most residents are on keeping cool. But competitors in the Fifth Annual Devon Energy Smokin’ on the Pecos New Mexico State BBQ Championship will be focused on kicking the heat up another notch June 24-25 as the annual weekend of barbecue, family fun, and quality entertainment gets underway at the Eddy County Fairgrounds.

The 2016 festival will once again feature a wide variety of activities, ranging from cowboy mounted shooting to arts and crafts to live music on the Yates Petroleum stage, featuring headliners Little Joe y La Familia and Bri Bagwell and The Banned.

The main event, however, is the cook-off itself, which this year welcomes 44 professional teams, including seven pitmasters.

“Four of the top 10 teams in the nation on the Kansas City Barbeque Society website list are going to be here, plus seven other pitmasters,” said event organizer David Grousnick.

Two of the top three overall prizewinners from last year’s SOTP event – The American Dream BBQ Team and Smokin’ Triggers, featuring renowned pitmaster Johnny Trigg – will be returning, as will 4 Legs Up BBQ.

“Kelly Wertz of 4 Legs Up, from Great Bend, Kans., is a big-time champion,” said Grousnick. “In order to go to the Jack Daniel’s (World Championship) Invitational, you have to win seven grand championships in a season, and he’s gone and won the Jack Daniel’s Grand Championship five times.”

SOTP is purchasing its pork butts for the competition from Fenn’s Country Market, whose deli will process and package the meat for distribution.

Local gurus of the grill and even future grill masters can also get in on the fun through the Backyard Barbecue and Kids’ Q competitions. Slots in those events may still be available this week; to inquire about registration, contact Grousnick at 513-4291 or wife and co-organizer Vickie at 513-4290.

Chefs not as confident in their grill skills can try their hand in the Anything Goes Discos, Best Dessert and Guac-Off competitions by contacting the Grousnicks at the numbers above.

Most attendees of SOTP, however, would prefer to let someone else do the sweating while they do the eating, and a variety of barbecue vendors will be on hand to oblige, including local past champion in the professional pork division, Outlaw Smokeshack, which will offer its award winning pulled pork Friday evening.

Shockingly, Vickie Grousnick reports, “We’ve had some feedback that not everybody likes barbecue.” Always willing to oblige, the SOTP team has also lined up some non-‘cue options this year, including local food truck P-nuTT’z, which will be serving up its famous doughnut burger and a variety of deep-fried delicacies.

Also on offer will be treats such as ice cream, kettle corn and horchata.

The weekend kicks off at 4 p.m. Friday when the gates open to the public. The Hotel Artesia Beer Garden will be serving up brews to complement the barbecue vendors’ wares.

At 5 p.m., the stage, Beer Garden, and barbecue vendor area of the fairgrounds will close to anyone not holding a concert ticket. Tickets for Friday’s performance, including Little Joe y La Familia, are $15 in advance or $20 at the gate. Tickets for Saturday’s entertainment will be $10 both in advance and at the gate. Advance tickets may be purchased at Hotel Artesia or online through brownpapertickets.com.

Los Cavern City Boyz of Carlsbad hit the stage at 5 p.m. Friday, followed by the Tejas Brothers at 6:45 p.m. and Little Joe at 8 p.m.

Certain areas of the fairgrounds will remain open to the public, however, including the Arts, Crafts and Trade Show in the exhibition building from 5-10 p.m. and the Bandoleros Cowboy Mounted Shooting championship, which kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday in the covered arena. A barbecue vendor will be set up in the covered arena area for those who wish to eat without paying to enter the stage area.

The mounted shooting competition will resume at 9 a.m. Saturday, while the main gates reopen at 10 a.m. The arts and crafts show will run from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, and also available will be the Runyan Ranch Petting Zoo and a washer tournament.

The barbecue championship will conclude at 4 p.m. with the presentation of awards in the show ring, and the stage area again closes to all but concert ticketholders at 5 p.m. Saturday.

The Electric Cowboys open the evening of entertainment at 5 p.m., followed by Laura Leigh and Will Jones at 6:30 p.m. and Bri Bagwell and The Banned at 8 p.m., presented courtesy of HollyFrontier/Navajo Refining Co., Santo Petroleum and Artesia General Hospital.

At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, a bull riding event will be held in the Artesia Horse Council Arena.

While SOTP officially concludes Saturday, the Bandoleros mounted shooters will continue to compete from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Sunday in the covered arena, and Chef Charles will be on hand to sell barbecue.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to purchase a chance on a stainless steel grill, provided by Tate Branch Auto Group, with all proceeds benefiting Artesia Emergency Relief.

“We’ll also be an international event again this year,” said David Grousnick.

SOTP last year welcomed Will Griffiths of London, England, who discovered the competition online and arrived to serve as a competition judge in order to conduct research for a barbecue restaurant in London, which he has since successfully opened.

This year, the event will be attended and judged by Eveline Schreiter of Wiesbaden, Germany.

“Where she’s from in Germany, it’s not allowed for individuals to have barbecue grills in their yards or on their balconies,” Grousnick said. “They’re only allowed outside of town at special parks, and you have to make reservations months in advance to get a space.”

Anyone wishing to join Schreiter as a barbecue judge may still sign up for the class – which begins with check-in at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the fairgrounds – by contacting the Grousnicks at the numbers above.

SOTP is also still seeking volunteers.

“This is our fifth year, so we’re real excited to have our fifth anniversary,” said Grousnick. “I know it looks now like it’s going to be a warm weekend, but we have some really great entertainment coming and a lot of things for kids and families to participate in.

“We really appreciate our generous sponsors, especially during this economic downturn, and we’re just real excited to be able to bring this quality of an event to Artesia and Southeast New Mexico.”

Brienne Green
Daily Press Editor

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