by: GARY ALLEN - Brandon Toedtemierer, of Slicks Big Time BBQ, bastes meat following the barbecue contest Friday at the St. Paul Rodeo.Since 2009, the St. Paul Rodeo’s Great Western BBQ Cook-Off has provided parade-watchers a chance to take off their hats and kick up their feet on Independence Day.

“Six years ago there was no place like this, where you could come in, bring your family and get out of the hot sun,” contest organizer Sam McKillip said.

The annual Fourth of July barbecue cook-off pit 15 contestants against each other on Friday for the honor of being known as the best team of grillers at the rodeo. The event was staged on the west side of the rodeo stands, right off of Main Street in St. Paul, conveniently located adjacent to the Independence Day parade route.

The barbecue teams began at 8 a.m., and the tent opened its doors at 11 a.m., just as the parade was wrapping up.

“Right after the parade, we pretty much got swamped with all the people going to the afternoon show,” McKillip said. “We’re up pretty early in the morning getting stuff cooked, so we’re ready for some hungry people.”

McKillip estimates that the contest has grown by 20 percent every year since its inception. The cook-off got so well-liked that in 2012, organizers added a potato salad contest in response to the growing popularity.

The potato salad contest was won by Kathy Charron, who has taken the potato salad crown for three years running. The top prize for the barbecue cook-off went to Bert’s BBQ.

“I’ve been doing this for the whole six years it’s been running, and our tent is getting bigger every year,” McKillip said. “We had an 8,000-square-foot tent this year, and we filled it up.”

While the cooks feverishly worked over their grills to make the perfect St. Louis-style ribs, guests were treated to sample plates of pork spare rib or beef tri-tip, with plenty of potato salad courtesy of Reser’s, the event’s primary sponsors.

McKillip estimated that just shy of 1,000 plates were sold this year. At $10 per sample plate, the barbecue contest is just one more successful event that helps make the St. Paul Rodeo the grand spectacle that attracts thousands of people on the Fourth of July.

Guests were also treated to local music by Blake Crosby, managing director of the Crosby Hop Farm in Woodburn. Crosby plays drums for the band Beware the Bear, one of many attractions that made the event special.

“There’s a lot of volunteerism and a lot of local people doing their thing, so it works out great,” McKillip said.


2014 Great Western BBQ Cook-off results

First: Bert's BBQ

Second: Two Honks

Third: Slick's Big Time BBQ

2014 Potato Salad contest results

First: Kathy Charron

Second: Bill Ploetz

Third: Rita Foltz

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