ANGLETON — After deciding to make the change last year, the Brazoria County Fair World Class Barbecue Cook-Off Contest is this weekend, the weekend before the fair starts.
Longtime cookers, used to firing up their pits the weekend the fair starts, are not happy.
“It was what was in the best interest for the entire association as a whole,” said Stacy Smith, the fair association’s special events executive over the barbecue cook-off.
The fair cook-off is now a state championship-sanctioned cook-off by the International Barbeque Cookers Association, Smith said. That allows teams to be ranked by a statewide standard, she said.
Making the cook-off the “kick-off” event for the fair allows other activities and attractions to take place in the cook-off space next weekend, including open-air concerts, Smith said.
The change made some teams decide not to return, including The Pit Meisters, former head cook Darryl Khoury said, citing the change of environment as the main factor in his decision. This would have been the Meisters’ 19th year to participate.
“I wanted to cook, too, but it’s just not going to be the same,” Khoury said. “I think they’re throwing tradition and family values out the window.”
The entry fee lowered this year from $400 a spot to $200 a spot because there was not a reason to charge more than $200, Smith said. The site can accommodate 142 spots, and 131 are filled this year, she said.
“With a major change like this, it does affect people, and we realize that,” Smith said. “People not returning allowed us to get 52 new teams and they’re really excited to be here.”
Shirley Gutierrez is a member of Mad Cow Cookers, one of the new teams this year, she said. She’s a grand champion cook, Gutierrez said. Her team members come from Hitchcock, Santa Fe and Manvel and wanted to try something new, she said.
“We’re looking forward to it,” she said. “Hopefully we can win.”
Cory Jeffers of The Chaparrals, a team his father started 43 years ago when the fair’s cook-off began, is participating this year, but said he is one of the biggest opponents to them moving it. Last year during the contest, he spread a petition opposing the change that got about 665 signatures, Jeffers said.
“We are returning because we’re the oldest team there and we don’t want to take scholarship funds away from the students,” he said.
Last year, the cook-off funded four $1,500 scholarships, Cook-Off Committee Chair Rebecca Goins said. It also sponsored three calves in the calf scramble, Smith said.
Moving the contest also allows extra events to go along with the cook-off, Goins said, including a pork chop cook-off competition for kids. There also will be cornhole and washers games today, she said.
Helicopter rides and food trucks will be part of today’s activities, Fair President T.R. Williams said.
“It’s going to be a nice, big event, just like always,” he said.
The changes are part of the fair growing, Williams said.
“We want everybody to come out and enjoy and have a good time,” he said.
Bradley Savant, a member of Killin’ Time, said his family will join him for the cook-off, but they don’t plan to return for the fair. He’s still participating because the team wanted to see what it would be like and they hope they change the date back next year.
They expect to feed substantially fewer people than previous years, Killin’ Time member Spencer Bennett said, adding he’s never seen the contest not be full of teams in their about 10 years of participation.
“It’s horrible,” Bennett said. “They made the wrong choice.”
Brandy Rendon of SWAT Cookers said her team would rather pay more to have the cook-off be at the same time as the fair. She doesn’t believe people will pay to get into the contest, then again to go to the fair, she said.
Her team is participating for its seventh year.
Families only have so much money to spend at the fair, Khoury said.
The cook-off contest is open from 9 a.m. to midnight today with admission $5 for those 16 and older. Children 15 and younger are free.