There was a smokey haze over Red River the weekend of August 20, but this time, it wasn’t because of a disaster. This time, the air was filled with the sweet smells of mesquite, hickory, slow-cooked meats and chiles, as some of the finest cooks from around the West put their skills to the test at this year’s 8750′ BBQ and Music Festival. Some of Taos County’s brightest musical stars were on hand to add a side of hot jams to the weekend events.
Things kicked off Thursday evening, Aug. 18 with perfect weather and a concert at Bitter Creek Ranch by John Fulbright before the party moved over to the Motherlode Saloon, with The Damned Quails rocking the house until nearly midnight.
On Friday, the music continued at Brandenburg Park with a “Bloody Mary Morning.” Clouds and a little monsoon rain kept the crowds cool while the contestants began their preparations for Saturday’s cook-off. Veggies were chopped, fires were lit and, as midnight approached again, the first meats were put in the smokers, while the crowds again enjoyed a night at the Motherlode.
The rains came in steadily Saturday morning, but by now the anticipation was too much: nothing could stop people from enjoying a day of feasting in the park. “It’s just a little water!” shouted one boisterous festival-goer. While much of the audience stayed under the canopy, others danced in the rain. Musician Mark Edgar Stuart said Red River is one of his favorite places to play, and added “it’s a lot cooler up here,” than back home in the sweltering Memphis summer.
The cooks, eager to win the coveted People’s Choice Award, were eager to share their creations, and tell you how they did it. Pitmaster Greg Salinas of Aurora, Colorado said cooking his brisket takes “depending on elevation, 9 to 14 hours,” showing his dedication to his craft.
Some cooks pushed the boundaries of barbecue, like Billy Joe Rodriguez of Wichita, Kansas, and her “Bacon Crack” a caramelized bacon and sweet sauce dish. She said she loved “interacting with the people. Them coming and tasting it… getting all their compliments!”
While many of the cooks are restaurateurs, some, like Adam Alvarez of Albuquerque and Jordan Garcia of Las Cruces who competed as “Team Hott Meat,” are particularly talented amateurs. The self-described “barbeque backyard dads,” have only been barbequing for three years, but were competing in their second 8750′ Fest and made some of the tenderest meats of the day.
While all the food was amazing, in the end, it was a cookoff and someone had to win. Barbecue winners are Larry Zimmerman, brisket; Will Gerdes, ribs; Stetson Jones, chicken. Kit Polk is the 2022 Grand Champion and Sean Hay is : Reserve Champion. For a complete list of winners and info on upcoming events, go to https://www.lonestarbarbecue.com/. Chili/Chile Cook Off winners are Kathy Williams, red; and Pat Page Taylor, green.
The festival ended with another night of music at the Motherlode Saloon. If you missed it, don’t worry, because it’s all happening again next year!
Reprinted With permission from the Enchanted Circle News