DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — According to a survey by the Vacationer, almost 60% of American adults said the activity they are most likely to take part in for Memorial Day weekend is BBQ or grilling.
The weekend is also about remembering those who served our country, so why not have one event that does both? The Veterans of Foreign Wars CO BBQ Competition took over the Douglas County Fairgrounds.
There were almost 40 competitors representing eight different states, including Wyoming, Texas Missouri, and all corners of Colorado.
With an entry fee of $250, groups could fire up the smoker and assemble their pit crew in order to win the $10,000 cash prize.
It’s a heated competition where the best of the best pit masters have a flavor face-off.
“There’s a lot that goes into the preparation. The preparation is huge,” said Mike Case with Holy Smokes BBQ.
“It’s a tenderness game,” said Brad Leighninger, a competitor.
Putting their unique recipe and strategy to the test, some cook the meat slow and low while others use the hot and fast method.
“We’ve got a little bit of maple in there, and we just got a rack and we’ll just put right over the top,” said Leighninger. “We’ll sit down, we’ll flip the meat. You’ve heard [the phrase] ‘if you’re looking, you’re not cooking.’ Well, this is a completely different thing.”
This competition benefits the VFW service dog fund for those who served our country.
“A lot of those veterans couldn’t even come out to an event like this without their dog and that dog, somehow the training that they provide them, provides them the comfort that they need to get out here,” Rick Wagner, the organizer of the event, said.
Just like veterans, some competitors have their own challenges.
“This is actually my first four-meat competition and I can’t smell,” said Shane Howard.
An accident in the summer of 2021, left Howard with only 8% of vision in one eye. He has embraced new tools like a wooden jig and a different method.
“[The jig] is so that I can cut everything perfectly because I can’t see, what I do see is shadow and color,” Howard said.
Instead of by smell or color, Howard uses the feel of the meat to tell when it’s done.
“The feeling is basically like feeling to see if the bark is built up on there and then seeing like if the ribs are loose,” Howard said.
They cook so others can get a canine companion.
“It is very important because being blind, lots of blind people use service dogs all the time,” said Howard. “It’s just great because they protect them from many things and even if they’re not blind, some people need them because they’ve been through a lot, especially veterans.”
Howard hopes his success goes beyond just seasonings and sizzle.
“I want to continue to do this to bring hope and inspiration to not only those that people think are disabled, that we’re really not, but also just hope and inspiration to everybody,” Howard said.