S tudents who raised chickens have long had a place at the Brazoria County Fair. This year, high schoolers who barbecue joined in the quest for fair glory.

Members of the Sweeny High School FFA program entered two teams to compete in the chicken, ribs and brisket categories at the Brazoria County World Class Barbecue Cook-Off Contest last weekend. They were looking to add to their trophy case after winning a 2018 state competition.

Sweeny FFA’s success caught the attention of the BCFA Barbecue Committee, Co-Chairman TJ McAvoy said, and members decided they should include a high school team for the first time. They were happy with the decision.

“They showed up and showed out,” McAvoy said.

Sweeny FFA Team A, comprised of students who had competed before, tied with three other teams to finish 11th overall, FFA teacher Lauren Prine said. Team B, with all first-time competitors, placed 25th, Prine said.

“The sad part is that I don’t think the kids grasp how amazing that really is,” Prine said. “They were up against 112 other teams that were made up of adults. How awesome is it that they placed top 25 out of 114 teams?”

Cook-off competitions are about more than rubs and recipes, though. Some of Prine’s students have gone from quiet and shy to talkative and outgoing because they compete, she said.

“These students have grown in their confidence and belief in themselves through training and competing,” Prine said.

Competitions require perseverance, time management and the ability to work under pressure. Sweeny High School FFA could not have asked for a better group of kids that portray these qualities, Prine said.

Ironically, if not for the controversial change of date for the cook-off, Sweeny’s students would have been left out because they’d be competing in other things.

“They have gotten a lot of pushback about moving the weekend, but the overall goal was to get the students to compete,” Prince said. “With how highly involved students are with other FFA activities, most of them would not have been able to compete on the following weekend.”

The future of the contest will hopefully involve a high school team every year from here, McAvoy said. The barbecue committee is unsure how they will go about choosing a team to sponsor going forward.

Sweeny looks forward to not being the only high school team firing up a pit in the future, Prine said.

“I hope other schools and people realize how important barbecue is for these kids and they get on board,” Prine said.

Lyndsey Privett is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0149.​

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