HTX Let's Go Rodeo 2013
BEEF UP!

World championship barbecue takes over the Rodeo: Inside the tent party flavor madness

World championship barbecue takes over the Rodeo: Inside the tent party flavor madness

RodeoHouston, barbecue cook-off, February 2013, Servers at the Smokin' Amigos tent didn't let work stop them from having a good time
Servers at the Smokin' Amigos tent didn't let work stop them from having a good time. Photo by Darla Guillen
RodeoHouston, barbecue cook-off, February 2013, Saloon row at the cook-off
Saloon Row at the cook-off Photo by Darla Guillen
RodeoHouston, barbecue cook-off, February 2013, Unique display at one cook-off tent
An interesting display at one cook-off tent Photo by Darla Guillen
RodeoHouston, barbecue cook-off, February 2013, Crowds filled the rows of tents Thursday night
Crowds filled the rows of tents Thursday night. Photo by Darla Guillen
RodeoHouston, barbecue cook-off, February 2013, Servers at the Smokin' Amigos tent didn't let work stop them from having a good time
RodeoHouston, barbecue cook-off, February 2013, Saloon row at the cook-off
RodeoHouston, barbecue cook-off, February 2013, Unique display at one cook-off tent
RodeoHouston, barbecue cook-off, February 2013, Crowds filled the rows of tents Thursday night

Reliant Park is not a safe place for cattle right now. With more than 300 rodeo barbecue groups cooking hundreds of pounds of brisket, sausage and anything that can be held together by bread or slathered with barbecue sauce, the arena looks and smells exactly as it should this time of year.

Thursday night marked the beginning of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo World’s Championship Bar-B-Que contest as throngs of cowgirls and cowboys paraded through rows of cook-off parties and packed into distinctly themed tents. From the big "mini" airplane on display at the United Airlines spot to the tinsel-lined Mardi Gras saloon, each big top housed a miniature party with its own personality and flair.

 Bouncers check credentials with TSA-level scrutiny, but once you’re in you’ll be treated to an endless supply of free food and drinks. 

As far as the private party tents, it helps know someone to get in. These are closed to the public unless you’re on the list of invitees or a friend of the host.

Bouncers check credentials with TSA-level scrutiny, but once you’re in you’ll be treated to an endless supply of free food and drinks (usually corporate sponsored). There are a some public tents with coupons for purchase, and you’ll still have a boot-scootin’ good time at those cook-off parties as long as you’re hungry for slabs of meat and laughs with friends and strangers alike.

With all the fun-loving camaraderie in the smoke-filled air, it’s hard to remember that this is a contest and each troop is a competitive team vying for a world championship barbecue award. Judges will walk around to each of the entrants’ tents in search of champions for several different categories including Overall Grand Champion, Champion Brisket, Most Colorful Team and even Go Texan Recycling. The competition culminates in an award ceremony Saturday night at 7 p.m. when winners of each category will be announced.

For those who claim to dislike the Rodeo’s festivities, if you like music, food or a good party, this is the place to be the next few nights. You don’t need to don western wear or be a fan of country music, but it would help to like meat.