Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

April 30, 2013

Barbecue, chili cooks vie for bragging rights

TAHLEQUAH — Although the weather was drizzling and cool, it didn’t stop folks who were ready to make and eat chili and barbecue Saturday at the Red Fern Festival Chili Cook Off and Barbecue Extravaganza.

“This is perfect chili weather,” said Tanya Wagnon, a member of Gideon Fire and Rescue’s team.

And Wagnon was right, as guests steadily streamed in and strolled through all the lines, waiting to taste the chili and barbecue being served by contestants.

Gideon Fire and Rescue has participated in the cook off for the past three years.

When it comes to creating a chili for a contest, Wagnon said, “We do something in between spicy and mild, for everyone to eat.”

Tahlequah Fire Department’s Casey Baker said firefighters have traveled all across Oklahoma and have tasted the chili of different fire departments, learning their secret recipes.

“It took us about a year to perfect our ingredients,” Baker said. “About four years ago, we mastered it. It’s a crowd-pleaser.”

Beside their Backdraft Chili, TFD members served barbecue. They slow-cook their barbecue, smoking the meat for one-and-a-half days.

Baker said the cook-off was a good way for TFD to interact with the community. He also said it offered camaraderie with the police department.

This was the first competition for team Tahlequah’s Finest – the Tahlequah Police Department – according to Steve Arnall.

“This [the cook-off] is something we’ve thought about doing for awhile, so we finally got to it,” Arnall said.

It’s Arnall’s secret recipe and method that the TPD uses.

“I had a lot of help,” Arnall said. “We were here all night long, working the smoker.”

Arnall said he enjoys smoking meat, and he personally wanted to see where he stood among other barbecue competitors.

“The secret is slow-cooking and low temperature,” Arnall said.

A peach dry rub is used by Arnall for the baby back ribs, and a peach barbecue sauce as well. His sauce, he said, is “different.”

“The Red Fern cook-off brings the community together,” said Arnall, agreeing with Baker. “It’s a chance to meet several different people, and a chance for people to come in to show case their talents.”

Hickory Ridge BBQ team member Mickey Dixon-Sullivan said the event was a lot of fun, and he enjoyed seeing the citizens of Tahlequah turn out for the festivities.

Dixon-Sullivan said the pit master, Kenny Baskeyfield, and his team have competed in several events around the country. He and his team participate in the Red Fern cook-off to support the community, as well as to support the Wounded Warrior Project.

According to Dixon-Sullivan, aficionados look for moisture and flavor in a good barbecue.

As for the Red Fern competition, Dixon-Sullivan said the cook-off committee works very hard to make it fair and impartial.

Trae Ratliff, co-chair of the cook-off committee, said the sumptuous contest is typically one of the biggest attractions of the Red Fern Festival.

“It’s just part of the whole package,” said Ratliff. “For $7, it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet.”

According to Ratliff, $5 of the $7 charged to tasters goes to the Kiwanis Club, which will donate it to local children’s charities. The other $2 goes to Tahlequah Main Street Association, which will use it to help with defray costs of Red Fern and other events.

“We want local organizations and businesses to compete against each other. We want it [the cook-off] small, local and community-oriented,” said Ratliff.

This year’s event was moved to the lawn across the street from Norris Park. According to David Moore, co-chair of the committee, the spaciousness of the new location created an atmosphere where there was “a lot of eating and visiting going on.”

“Having the cook-off on the lawn and off the street gave it a hometown feel,” he said.

Those working the cook-off had their own criteria for what they looked for in a good chili and barbecue.

“In barbecue, I look at the texture, smell, taste, and to how it sticks to my ribs,” said Moore. “In chili, I look for the afterburn, and a little diversity. Not just meat and beans.”

Those who paid to taste and vote held a variety of opinions.

Ashli Dill said she looks for good, but mild, spices in a chili. She shared hers with her 1-year-old daughter, Jaylee.

“She likes chili,” Dill said.


To see the complete version of this article, subscribe to the Daily Press e-edition by following the link below.

Click here to get the entire Tahlequah Daily Press delivered every day to your home or office.

Click here to get a free trial or to subscribe to the Tahlequah Daily Press electronic edition. It's the ENTIRE newspaper (without the paper) for your computer, iPad or e-reader.

Text Only
Local News
  • jn-WEB-truck-fire.jpg Up in flames

    Truck fire could impact city’s trash services

    Operations at Tahlequah’s solid waste transfer station will be impacted by the loss of a 2008 Freightliner destroyed by fire Wednesday night.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • svw-gasoline.jpg Ethanol or regular gasoline? Dealers, mechanics disagree over what’s best

    Oklahoma is one of the few states with refineries producing pure gasoline and E10.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • NSU-fountain.jpg University heads in Oklahoma average $216,000 per year

    First in a three-part series about higher education compensation and how it compares with pay for rest of the state

    For years, area legislators, administrators of state agencies and state employees have been critical of cuts to programs and flat budgets. But while programs may be shaved and salaries for higher education professors may be stagnant, administrative costs seem to be exploding on many campuses.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • ishcomer-elizabeth.jpg Woman picked up for child endangerment

    A 41-year-old woman was released from jail this week after Tahlequah officers arrested her on child endangerment and drug charges.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • mcgregor-michael.jpg Two jailed after false 911 report made

    Two people were jailed Wednesday after a woman allegedly made a false report to 911 dispatchers.

    August 1, 2014 2 Photos

  • TPS looking to fill several positions before school starts

    The Tahlequah I-35 Board of Education held a special meeting last night, to bring more certified personnel and support staff on board before school starts.

    August 1, 2014

  • svw-beagles-MAIN.jpg Going to the dogs

    Hounds at center stage for more than just Red Fern Festival

    Larry Blackman and Titus Blanket have always loved dogs, especially beagles. In their respective roles as president and vice president of the Cherokee County Beagle Club, they’ve turned that love into a passion.

    July 31, 2014 2 Photos

  • sanders-jeri.jpg Murder charge against mother of dead boy, 3, dismissed

    A first-degree murder charge has been dropped against a 37-year-old mother accused in the death of her 3-year-old son.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • supersalary.jpg Okla. superintendents paid comparatively well; teachers 46th lowest

    Administrators say they work year-round, have other duties

    As public education in Oklahoma continues to feel the pinch of a shrinking state budget, watchdog groups and district patrons across the state are asking whether superintendents are getting a disproportionate piece of the financial pie.

    July 31, 2014 2 Photos

  • Boards keep city, county afloat

    City and county officials rely on a variety of boards to oversee diverse and complex issues, and many of their members work behind the scenes to keep the wheels of government oiled and turning.
    The city of Tahlequah currently has 10 boards and three trust authorities. Cherokee County has two county-specific boards.

    July 31, 2014


Do you think "blue laws" related to Sunday alcohol sales in Oklahoma should be relaxed? Choose the option that most closely reflects your opinion.

Alcoholic drinks should be sold Sundays in restaurants and bars, and liquor stores should be open.
Alcoholic drinks should be sold Sundays in restaurants and bars only; liquor stores should stay closed.
Liquor stores should be open Sundays, but drinks should not be served anywhere on Sundays.
The law should remain as it is now; liquor stores should be closed, and drinks should be served on Sundays according to county option.
No alcohol should be sold or served publicly on Sundays.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Renewed Violence Taking Toll on Gaza Residents 2 Americans Detained in North Korea Seek Help US Employers Add 209K Jobs, Rate 6.2 Pct House GOP Optimistic About New Border Bill Gaza Truce Unravels; Israel, Hamas Trade Blame Raw: Tunisia Closes Borders With Libya Four Rescued From Crashed Plane Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction