By: Lorrie Ward | Category: In Our Communities | Issue: April 2013
Steve Gragert, chair of the Boots and BBQ Festival.
Most people consider barbecue to be true American cuisine. But some may not know just how truly American this creation is. Centuries ago, Spanish conquerors and explorers came to this hemisphere and while they were here, they introduced pork to the Native American tribes they encountered. In turn, the Native Americans showed the Spaniards the process of cooking and preserving meat with smoke – and from this, barbecue was born.
Since that time, barbecue has grown to include more than just pork – Americans barbecue beef, chicken, and other types of meat, as many savor the tenderness and taste of this delectable creation. Backyard barbecue pits and cookers have become as much a part of the American landscape as baseball and apple pie. But though most people know how to fire up the grill, there are quite a few who have turned barbecuing into an art form – and they are invited to compete in this year’s Boots and BBQ Festival at Will Rogers Downs and Cherokee Casino in Claremore, May 10-11.
This year’s Management Committee includes John Walke, who will provide meat for the taster kits and who competes in other national barbecue contests, and Steve Gragert, who has in the past been chair of the judges and is now overall chair of the event. Steve points out that Boots and BBQ offers one of the largest collection of cash prizes in Oklahoma BBQ competitions – a total of $10,000 will be awarded – and contest organizers have added a special perk in 2013: “The advantage this year is that we offer an early discounted entry fee if you sign up before April 10.” Steve also notes that Boots and BBQ hosts a dessert competition, which is fun for both competitors and participants, and is something not all competitions offer.
Sign-ups are currently available for both competitors and vendors at
www.claremorereveille.com. Friday night, May 10 is for cookers’ and vendors’ set up. Both groups can check in from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., with a team meeting at 5:30 p.m. Musical entertainment will be provided for cookers and vendors all Friday evening. Details about the different competition levels, which range from Walnut, Mesquite, and Apple to Hickory, Pecan and Oak, can be found on the website.
Even if you have no interest in competition and just love the taste of great barbeque, it is not too early to mark your calendar for Saturday, May 11, when taster kits will become available to the public at 11 a.m. for $6. Though sometimes “good things come to those who wait,” this will not be one of those times, and Steve Gragert recommends that those who want to be sure and get in on all the great flavors come as early as possible. “Taster kits are available until all food is gone,” Steve Gragert says. “In the past, those who have waited until the last minute have waited too late.”
Proceeds from Boots and BBQ benefit the Claremore Reveille Rotary Club’s various community service projects, including Build Water Wells in Nicaragua, Shoes for Claremore Kids, Medical Supply Network, End Polio Now, RYLA Student Sponsors, Will Rogers Day Parade, Leadership Training, scholarships for area students, and personalized dictionaries to Rogers County second and third graders. For more information on how to get involved in the Claremore Reveille Rotary Club’s worthwhile endeavors, visit www.claremorereveille.com.
Steve hopes to see an even bigger turnout this year at what has become a traditional Claremore event. “We always have a wide variety of barbecue and it tastes great,” he says. “Vendors, great concessions, and horse racing at the nearby Will Rogers Downs make this family event a lively affair.”