Bring your family, bring your friends — and don’t forget to bring your appetite. Summit County kicks off summer in the mountains with the 23rd Annual Colorado BBQ Challenge to be held June 17-18 in downtown Frisco.
“Frisco, the BBQ Challenge and the start of summer — they belong together,” said Vanessa Agee, marketing and communications director for the town of Frisco.
Once a small, local event with barely a dozen teams competing, the Colorado BBQ Challenge today draws more than 70 teams from across the country to Summit County to compete for top honors as the best barbecuers in the Rocky Mountains. Visitors from all over will be mingling with locals in downtown Frisco, as everyone enjoys the fun: live music throughout the weekend, wild and wacky races featuring everyone’s favorite barnyard animals, Summit County’s three stalwart companies of firefighters facing off over a hot stove at the annual Cook-Off and dozens of restaurants and “cookers” serving up crowd-pleasing samples of barbecue. The event will extend over six blocks of Frisco’s Main Street and into the sides streets as well.
Back by popular demand is the second annual Firefighter’s Cook-off. Teams from Dillon, Copper and Breckenridge will entertain audiences with a 90-minute cooking demonstration, each preparing their own secret recipes that will be shared with the crowd to determine the winning dish. Celebrity judges, including Frisco’s honorable Mayor Gary Wilkinsin, will be on hand to add their expert opinions.
Asked why the event is such a crowd-pleaser, Lt. Kevin Skaer of Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue, last year’s winning team, said, “There’s a lot of joking going on. Firefighters are a brotherhood and a family, and, just like any other family, we like giving each other a hard time. We love Copper and Red, White, and Blue — but we’re not above telling them how badly we are going to beat them.”
Rumor has it that the Cook-Off, hosted by these three teams of firefighters, may offer another draw.
“Last year there were two guys taking their shirts off,” said Skaer. “We may do that again. I can’t say we will — but I can’t say we won’t.”
Everyone loves the Pig Races, and audiences will have multiple opportunities to cheer on their favorite pigs — as well as geese and ducks — during the weekend. How do the competitors feel about this high-stakes event?
“It’s not a hard career for the 8-week-old piglets,” said Jennifer Gregston of Happy Hallow Ranch. “In fact, it’s very rewarding for them. They sleep, run around and then get milk. The winner gets an Oreo cookie.”
Races amongst the geese and ducks have the added thrill of unpredictability.
“You never know what will happen,” she said. “The geese and ducks like to take the scenic route, sometimes waddling, flying or just meandering depending upon what mood they are in.”
Any tips on where to place your bet?
“You never know who is going to win,” she said. “It all comes down to who is most motivated by their treat.”
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE FOOD — AND THE LOVE
Doug Pierce of Arapahoe Café — last year’s local favorite in the event — has been competing with his signature barbecue for 24 years, even before the Colorado BBQ Challenge was a sanctioned event. Here is a preview of the mouth-watering offerings that attendees can expect this year from the Dillon restaurant: Pierce’s award-winning ribs, smoked cheddar mac-and-cheese, Carolina pulled pork and Jake’s Beef Brisket.
“This event gets into your blood,” Pierce said. “Barbecue is not just about the food; it’s a social event. It’s about people getting together and about camaraderie. And I like to say that what’s different about what we do versus some of the others — is love.”
Chef David Welch of Food Hedz, will also be offering tempting morsels to audiences, as part of a cooking demo on the BlueStar kitchen stage.
“I talk up the BBQ Challenge, and I talk up Frisco as the best town in the world,” Welch said.
He plans to demo the preparation of various seafood dishes, including grilled shrimp and mini fish tacos with a variety of different ingredients.
Here are a few tips offered by the town of Frisco’s Agee on how to best to enjoy this busy, action-packed weekend event:
Be sure to use lots of sunscreen.
Alcohol can be purchased inside the event, but attendees cannot bring alcohol in or take it out.
Make time to stop by some of the many local businesses in downtown Frisco. Businesses will be open, though some restaurants may have modified schedules and may just be serving dinner
Don’t worry about extra “hogbacks.” The official currency of the event is also accepted at many local businesses and restaurants for several days after the event.
Need to take a break? Take a pause between barbecue tastings, and head over to the Historic Park, a great grassy place to lounge and relax. Families with kids may want to wander over to Walter Byron Park, just two blocks away, which has a nice playground. Or take a stroll down to Frisco Marina, with a gorgeous view of Lake Dillon.
This year proceeds from the Colorado BBQ Challenge will benefit several nonprofits, including Advocates for Victims of Assault, the Colorado Restaurant Association — Summit County Chapter, High Country Conservation Center, Summit County Chamber of Commerce, Mountain Mentors and Women of the Summit. Prize money from the Fire-Fighter Cook-off will be donated to support Flight For Life flight nurse Dave Repsher and his family during his recovery.