By: Christopher Davis | Category: In Our Communities | Issue: October 2013
Executive Director Tanya Andrews, Visit Claremore.
Will Rogers’ birthday is November 4, which means that Claremore – the hometown of Rogers – is planning their annual Will Rogers Days celebration. As part of the celebration, Visit Claremore will host the first-ever Chuck Wagon Cook-Off on Saturday, November 2 at Claremore Expo Center. This event brings together authentic chuck wagons and a good old-fashioned, stick-to-your-ribs feast as teams compete for appetites and bragging rights in a handful of categories.
“I think this is something Will Rogers himself would have enjoyed,” explains Tanya Andrews, executive director of Visit Claremore. “We have been looking to add more events to the city-wide celebration of Will Rogers Days and think an authentic Chuck Wagon Cook-Off is a perfect fit.”
Authenticity is certainly a theme of the cook-off, a unique event in the region. Tanya and organizers worked with the American Chuck Wagon Association to recruit wagons from all over the country. The ACWA encourages participants to preserve this aspect of American heritage through competitive events that involve setting up camp, cooking with authentic Old Western tools and showing restored or replicated chuck wagons. For two days, the wagon train rolls into the Claremore Expo Center and will set up camp in the “Chili Bowl” area. Participants compete in seven categories as they educate, entertain and feed attendees.
The fun begins on Friday, November 1, as the chuck wagons establish their camps. The first round of judging – for the Will Rogers Choice category – will commence late on Friday afternoon. Later that evening, a chili dinner and blessing will be held for the chuck wagon teams, as well as sponsors and city leaders, hosted by the Restoration Hardware Ranch.
On Saturday, November 2, the chuck wagon teams get down to business. Each team will dig a pit for cooking – yes, they will dig cooking pits at the Expo Center. At 1:45, teams will submit their meals to the panel of judges. At 2, the chuck wagons will begin serving attendees. In order to catch a taste of the authentic, down-home cowboy cooking, attendees must purchase meal tickets, which include meat, potatoes, beans, bread, dessert and a drink. Attendees are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance, as there are a limited number available. Meal tickets are $8 in advance and $10 the day of, if any remain.
Chuck wagon teams will compete in seven categories on Saturday: Most Authentic, Best Overall and Best Food subcategories for meat, potatoes, beans, bread and dessert. Some of the items you can expect include chicken fried steak, beef stew, fried or mashed potatoes, beans, biscuits, cornbread, sourdough bread peach cobbler and much more. Remember – this is not merely a home-cooked meal; these items will be cooked just as the cowboys in the old days used to cook them. By 5 p.m., the food will surely have run out and judges will announce the winners of each category.
In addition to mouthwatering cowboy cooking, attendees can look forward to celebrity judges and entertainment of all sorts. Kids’ activities, storytellers and more will be at the Chili Bowl area at the Expo Center. And, the chuck wagons themselves are like mobile museums. Teams, dressed in period attire, will be on hand to talk about how things used to be. For all the changes over the years, though, one thing remains the same: Claremore always presents an opportunity for families to come together, enjoy each other’s company and make some fun memories.
Visit Claremore extends appreciation to the ACWA and all the chuck wagon teams who have pitched in to organize this event, as well as RCB (presenting sponsor) and wagon sponsors Pixley Lumber Co., Grand Bank, Melton Sales, MoreClaremore.com, Visit Claremore and the Claremore Expo Center.
Be sure to keep an eye out for all the events planned for Will Rogers Days, including a special exhibit from General Tommy Franks called "Remembering Our Fallen," a story of Oklahoma's fallen heroes, at the JM Davis Museum, and a variety of events at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum. To learn more about the Chuck Wagon Cook-Off, check out www.visitclaremore.com. Meal tickets can be purchased at Claremore Expo Center or by phone with a credit card at (918) 341-8688.
Christopher Davis is an educator and musician, as well as a writer. A California native, he resides in Tulsa with his wife, two sons and a modest menagerie of pets. When he isn't inspiring young minds, you will most likely find him spending time with his family or playing drums and percussion with Project Huckleberry or the Movetet. In addition to Value News, Davis also writes for Currentland. You can view his work at https://seedavis.wordpress.com.