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BBQ Tour Stop #17 - Pepsi Wyoming State BBQ Championship

August 21, 2009
The 5th Annual Pepsi Wyoming State BBQ Championship & Bluegrass Festival was held at the Washakie County fairgrounds in Worland, WY. Worland is a couple of hours East of Yellowstone and a three hour drive from Casper through some open plains, a beautiful lake, three tunnels and lots of pronghorn Antelope.

When we pulled into town, we stopped at the local Co-op and were met by two police cars, a sheriff department truck and the local fire department. Normally this would be a bad thing but they were there to escort the Tour trailer to a welcoming ceremony with a group of local dignitaries. After pictures, hugs and handshakes, we headed out to the fairgrounds where teams were already setting up for the weekend.

Our afternoon was pretty full as Ed Hunter, the event organizer, gave us a tour of the Pepsi Bottling Plant. Pepsi and Admiral Beverage was the main sponsor of the event and the second largest employer in Wyoming. The plant services a five state area. They were canning Diet Mt. Dew at a rate of 1,200 cans per minute. The coolest thing was the plastic “test tube” looking pre-forms that came out of a machine as bottles.

After the tour, we traveled across town to the Crown Cork and Seal plant that produces aluminum cans. Mike, who was attending that evening’s local judging class, was nice enough to take us around to see everything from the aluminum rolls to the “cupping” machine. We even saw the pistons and punches that make the can and the printing machines that can print up to six colors per can. Each can goes through an incredible process and is stacked 3,169 per pallet for shipment. They produce about 3.5 million cans a day. It was interesting to see the process because there were 3 million cans of Pepsi and 7-Up printed and distributed with the KCBS logo promoting the BBQ contest.

That evening was the Certified Judging Class and at 6:00, just like clockwork, the clouds rolled in and the wind blew away everything that was not nailed down. From what we were told, this has been a very strange summer for the area. Last year they had triple digit weather during the competition and this Saturday morning we needed sweatshirts.

Friday evening brought some rain but it did not scare away the crowd. It cleared out quickly and we were introduced to the crowd by Katie Blake. Her father Jim was instrumental in starting the BBQ contest and getting the KCBS Tour to travel to Worland. Unfortunately, Jim passed away before our schedule was announced. He would have been so proud. Jim’s cooking spot was where the tour trailer was placed this year in his memory. Even though we had never met Jim, I am sure that he was proudly looking down and smelling the smoke from all the cooking teams.

Speaking of teams, we ran into some that we have met along the way like T & Becci of Utah Smoke, Mike and Johnny of Wild Hog BBQ, Burnin’ Bob, Bossman BBQ, Big Hole and Apron’s Only among others. It was fun to meet some of the local teams like Shoe’s BBQ, Chubby Cheeks and Mike’s Dragon’s Breath that had a homemade Dragon head smoker. We even had little Jersey from Smokin Hot Sistahs visit the trailer over the weekend. Parrothead Smokers walked away with the Grand Prize, with a first in Ribs and Brisket and seconds in Chicken and Pork. Moe with Ponderosa BBQ won Reserve Grand with two top 5 wins.

Our last show onstage was the Grill Master competition with Nathan, our helper for the weekend, and Warren who brought his wife Debi and young son to both of our demonstrations. We were trying to beat the rain that was threatening. I must give the crowd some major kudos because NOBODY left when some raindrops started falling. Only one lady in the back row opened up her umbrella until I made her feel guilty. When we were in Columbus, the rain started and people scattered for cover – not the folks in Wyoming. After Warren won the contest with his Kabob dish, we had all kinds of help and we packed up in record time. We even took pictures of the event committee putting the check mark on the back of the trailer.

This BBQ community that we love so much never ceases to impress me. We were welcomed with open arms again and we have made such wonderful friends. On Saturday morning, the “shot” was held at the Wild Hogs cook site. T brought things home as everybody raised their custom boot shot glasses of juice, Mt. Dew and “Lucy” to remember Jim and what a “Cool Cat” he was. I can only agree and express how much we enjoyed our first trip to Worland. We look forward to coming back to either BBQ or just visit newfound friends.

Mike (and Chris) Peters
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