BBQers brave the cold for competition

BBQers brave the cold for competition

Conquistador Challenge draws teams from around the region

Rain, unseasonably cold temperatures and yes, even snow didn’t put a damper on the teams who came to Marion over the weekend to square off in Esperanza Bonanza’s Conquistador Challenge.

Some of the tri-state’s best BBQ buffs made the trek to the Sports Complex to show off their ribs, pulled pork, BBQ sauce, wings, and chili in the hopes of walking off with the top helmet and shield award.

“We had 25 teams this year,” said Esperanza Bonanza Treasurer Joanie Taylor. “Last year we had nine. So we’re growing.

We’re thrilled by the turnout.”

The Conquistador Challenge is a Memphis Barbecue Network sanctioned contest which judges whole hog, ribs, and pulled pork.

MBN is one of the leading sanctioning bodies of BBQ contests in the world.

BBQ Chairperson Missi Norman said the competition included multiple past Memphis Barbecue Network and Kansas City Barbecue Society champs.

Teams came from as far away as Batesville and Jackson, Mississippi, Cen- terville, Tennessee, and Batesville and Blytheville, Arkansas. The event also drew six local teams.

“We’ve got some good ones,” Norman said. “We have many past grand champions here.”

Taylor, who has judged BBQ events in Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee, said they received many compliments on the event.

Teams were especially impressed when she stopped by each trailer with a dozen donuts.

“I’ve judged events all over and you never get this kind of hospitality,” Taylor said. “You’re lucky if you get a cup of coffee. So we got a lot of compliments for our event.”

Runners up each walked off with nice cutting boards while the top three winners in each category were recognized with trophies in the shape of conquistador helmets and shields.

Brown Cow, Brown Chicken were named Grand Champions in the Whole Hog category; Ham’s Hocks won first place for Pulled Pork; Top Ribs went to Boar’s Night Out; Best BBQ Wings were awarded to Porkchop Mafia; Victory Lane BBQ were recognized for Best Sauce; and C& J Backyard Smokers won top honors for Best Chili.

By Mark Randall