FREEPORT — Smoke rose through the thick air as hamburger patties sizzled on grills and a group of children carefully inspected cooking meats.
The Junior Hamburger Cook-Off at this year’s 72nd annual Fishin’ Fiesta allowed children to have a turn at the grill. Starting with hamburger patties, kids added seasoning, condiments, spices and secret ingredients of their choosing.
Not far off from the pavilion at Freeport Municipal Park, adults tended to pot-bellied smoking pits for their own cook-off competition that followed later Saturday afternoon.
A panel rated the children’s burgers for flavor, tenderness, texture, appearance and originality.
When the smoke settled, 11-year-old Adriana Carreon took the competition’s top prize. It was the first year she had entered the cooking competition.
She was a bit speechless that she had won the competition on her first try, Carreon said.
“It feels good,” she said.
She prepared for the big day by practicing regularly and getting cooking advice from her dad, who she cooks with all the time at home, Carreon said.
Gloriana Perez, 12, ended up winning third place for her hamburger infused with pineapple and bacon flavoring. This was her fifth year participating in the event.
She loves grilling and making people happy through her food, Perez said.
“I like it when the burger turns out well,” she said. “I like the feeling of it.”
Perez won the competition’s top prize in 2017, she said.
Her greatest asset is making sure she never loses her cool while she cooks, Perez said.
“To have patience,” she said. “Patience is key.”
Kamryn Crosby, 12, decided to participate in the event because of her dad, she said.
“My dad, he’s been doing this ever since he was a kid,” she said. “He introduced it to me.”
Grilling allows her to make people feel happy with a good meal, Crosby said.
But Crosby said there is one part of grilling that is always a challenge.
“I would say meats,” she said. “Just to make it proper and right.”
You never want to overcook meat because then the whole meal is ruined, Crosby said.
She decided to dial it up and cooked an unorthodox hamburger by adding chorizo to it, Crosby said.
“It’s a Tex-Mex burger,” she said.
Her father, Josh Crosby, said he has attended the fishing tournament since he was a kid and he’s glad his daughter now participates and has found her own passion.
“She’s done it every year,” he said. “She enjoys it. She’s got a couple trophies from the cook-off. It gives us a break from fishing.”
Fishin’ Fiesta activities wrap up today. The weigh station opens at 9 a.m. with fishing ending at 3 p.m. The final awards ceremony will take place at 5 p.m. at Riverplace in Freeport.