The competition for the 10th Annual Pork & Brew, which starts Friday and runs through the weekend at Santa Ana Star Center, is starting to heat up.
Hosted by the Rio Rancho Convention and Visitors Bureau, the event has become a major city event. It is a fully sanctioned by the Kansas City BBQ Society and is one of the top 10 events on the organization’s calendar. An estimated 20,000 people attend each year to enjoy the food and the competition.
Pork & Brew includes plenty of opportunities to compete. There are categories for kids to enter, salsa and sauce competitions, as well as competitions for the best beans, side dishes and desserts. There’s even a category called “anything butt,” which is self-explanatory.
The most coveted trophies are the ones for best chicken, ribs, pork and brisket.
Three of this year’s competitors — Roger Bell, Mike Antonen and Leonard Trujillo — said the family-friendly event is all about having fun and cooking up some delicious meat.
Most importantly, they say, it’s about bragging rights.
Bell — who recently bought Smokehouse BBQ on Barbara Loop, just east of NM 528 — said barbeque is not just about the kind of food being cooked, it’s about the event itself. He hopes to reopen the restaurant, which he’s calling Rub-N-Wood, by the end of this month.
He said he wants his restaurant to be casual and light-hearted, the way barbecue should be.
“It’s the way you eat it,” he said. “You’re always eating it with friends. That’s why everybody barbecues on the Fourth of July. It’s kind of like a redneck matanza.”
Bell said he built his first barbecue pit in high school shop class and has been addicted to smoking meats ever since. He’s entered the competition in Rio Rancho for several years and has consistently placed in the top 25.
“Every once in a while I’ll throw a 40 (in the rankings) because I forgot about something,” he said.
Last year, he placed 11th in the chicken-cooking competition.
Pig in a Pit
Antonen, whose team name is Pig in a Pit, said going head to head in that competition is what gets his blood going.
“It’s a hobby. Rather than skydiving, motorcycles or ATVs, or fixing muscle cars, this is kind of like my hobby. My sport,” he said. “Barbeque is about fun. It’s down-home funky.”
Part of what makes it fun is trying to win bragging rights or doing a little trash talking, he said.
“It’s more of a macho thing,” he said. “You B.S. with your friends … ‘I can do better than you,’ and they say, ‘Oh yeah, well prove it.’”
I Que for You
Trujillo of team I Que for You is passing his spirit of competition on to his son.
He has entered almost every competition in Pork & Brew’s 10-year history. When the event first started, he recalled, it was held in March.
“Those were the good old days. … the weather was horrendous, with the wind and the dust,” he said. “It was just hard conditions.”
Trujillo started barbecuing at 17 in Texas with his sister’s then-husband, he said.
“It was a hell of a good time and I’ve been barbecuing ever since.”
Now, he’s teaching his son to barbecue — which is great, he said, because he’s found a way to get his son to cook dinner every night.
“The best barbecue is the barbecue someone is making for me,” he said. “It’s a lot of work.”
If you go
This year’s event is Friday through Sunday at Santa Ana Star Center, which is east of Unser Boulevard, off Paseo del Volcan.
General admission is $5, adults 65 and older or children ages 4 to 12 get in for $3 and children 3 and under are free.
For more information, call 891-7300 or go to rioranchonm.org and click on Pork & Brew.
The event starts each day at 11 a.m. On Friday, there will be an opening ceremony, with Toby McBrooks singing the national anthem at 11 a.m.
The festivities don’t stop until 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The gates close at 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Beer and adult beverage service, as well as live music and other entertainment, will be available from noon to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
The judged competitions start Friday, with a lighting of grills for the Kids Q competition at 1:30 p.m. Turn-in times are:
• Salsa competition, 3:25-3:35 p.m.;
• Sauce competition, 3:55-4:05 p.m.; and
• Kid’s Q, 4:25-4:35 p.m.
On Saturday, the turn-in times are:
• Chicken, 11:55 a.m.-12:05 p.m.;
• Ribs, 12:25-12:35 p.m.;
• Pork, 12:55-1:05 p.m.;
• Brisket, 1:25-1:35 p.m.;
• “Anything butt,” 1:55-2:05 p.m.;
• Beans, 2:25-2:35 p.m.;
• Side dishes, 2:55 to 3:05 p.m.; and
• Desserts, 3:25- 3:35 p.m.
The awards ceremony will be held Saturday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Star Center’s main stage.