Fun At The Whistle-Stop Barbecue Festival!

This year’s Whistle-Stop Barbeque Festival was great fun. I love great barbeque and the many different grills and smokers on parade almost made me want to buy one and hit the barbeque circuit. Some were painted black, some all stainless steel and there was one that looked like a big egg on wheels that was painted blue.

One thing all these fantastic grills had in common was that the cooks all used either wood or charcoal to cook their meat! None of the sissy electric grills or gas grills was allowed at this competition. These were real men and women who toured the country with their meat cookers hooked behind their trucks. I’ll bet their ancestors worked the cattle drives on the old Chisholm Trail out west and cooked their meals on a campfire built out of old buffalo chips.

I had visions of entering one cook-off after another until I discovered how much those steel monsters cost! Most of these started as low as $5,000 and went up from there! Way Up! That doesn’t take into consideration the vehicles it takes to haul one of these grills around the country; color coordinated and everything!

Grills of all size and description lined the spur line of N & L Railroad tracks in downtown Huntsville, Alabama. This area is now designated as a historic site and was host to some of the most beautiful barbeque grills in creation. I was almost salivating from the sight of all the unusual grills and smokers, not mention the wonderful aromas of the four categories being judged, barbequed ribs, chickens, pork and beef brisket, that were sizzling in their own juices.

There were competitors from Texas, Tennessee, California and North Carolina, in addition to eleven other states. These were folks who follow the barbeque tour, piling up points to be considered for the national title later in the year.

For back yard grillers like myself, there was a “backyard” division made up of amateurs who just love to cook meat in the open air. I didn’t enter this year because even at the non-professional level, it takes a lot of preparation to be ready for this event and by nature I’m a lazy man, not given to anything that appears to be too much like work.

Since most of these professional barbeque chefs came from other states, they had the “big rigs” of barbequing. There was one that was so beautiful it almost made tears come to your eyes.

There before me was a huge 12 foot long black grill shaped like a propane tank, resting on a black steel meshed bed attached to a dual axel trailer that had chrome fender wells. There were dual chrome pipes possibly stolen from a Peterbilt or Mack truck that graced either side of the grill itself. It was a wonderful sight to see clouds of hickory smoke boiling out of these four smokestacks as its truck driver owner fired up the logs in the pit.

All gauges, handles and trim work were of polished chrome, matching the smokestacks and wheel wells of the trailer, which perfectly matched the large black, dual wheel pickup truck that hauled it to various competitions around the country. The glittering chrome on ever accessory is what really sold me on this rig.

All around me were elaborate barbeque grills and smokers which had to have cost their owners a bundle of money. One toy that caught my eye was an actual log cabin built on a trailer with a grill on the end of the porch. The cabin itself was a concession stand where they sold barbeque condiments. Practically every contestant had their own spices to make their sauces or barbeque rubs, making each booth a little more special than the last.

Some of the barbeque rigs had sponsors for their roaming barbecue cookers displayed in banners overhead or even painted on the truck and trailer. There were familiar logos of some of the most well known outdoor companies, selling ever thing from charcoal to camping equipment.

By the end of the day I had seen enough to know that I’ll probably not be joining those barbeque geniuses on the road to the next competition. I left the cook-off smelling of barbeque smoking and with a tummy full of satisfaction.