In Houston, it takes a lot to upstage world-class brisket, sausage, and other smoked goods. But last year, what arguably stole the show at the 90th annual World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest wasn't a fatty, marbled brisket or superbly smoked sausage — it was a tent.
"Tent" perhaps is a misnomer. The utterly dazzling Cotton ‘Q Club Cookoff destination staged by title sponsor Cotton Holdings, Inc. redefined cowboy chic and became a media and local sensation.
Cotton CEO (and true Houston cowboy) Pete Bell and his rock star marketing/event guru Zinat Ahmed (who designed the tent) spared no expense, putting an elegant western spot that sported a posh, equestrian theme and spanned nearly 9,000 square feet. Seven-foot shimmering horses, hundreds of roses, a tufted bar, plaid flooring, and navy blie drapes brought an NYC Polo Bar vibe to the the Cookoff.
Bigger, better, and Breggy
Seems hard to top — but Ahmed and the Cotton team have done just that this year. The wood-paneled tent with crystal-and-antler chandeliers now boasts an additional 1,150 square feet of space, making the "tent" now a total 10,292 square feet, including 6,212 square feet of tented space. Apropos, as the tent will see more than 2,000 Bar-B-Que guests from Thursday, February 23 through Saturday, February 25.
Literally thousands of constantly refreshed, long-stem red roses bloom in vases everywhere, creating a Tournament of Roses. "My vision was to have the Kentucky Derby in a tent," Ahmed told us Wednesday, February 22 as we toured the tent. Mission accomplished, indeed.
The 50-foot wood bar now is joined by smaller bars serving up signature spirits from Dripping Springs distillery. As for bites, Cotton joined forces with Houston Astros superstar Alex Bregman and his Breggy Bomb products, including Breggy Bomb Original BBQ Sauce, sustainably raised R-C Ranch steaks seasoned with Breggy Bomb El Jefe Seasoning, and even Bregman-autographed koozies for attendees.
All hat, all style
Another MVP partnership includes milliner Teressa Foglia; Cotton brass and VIPs will sport custom, one-of-a-kind felt and straw hats designed by the legendary Foglia.
Cotton will also host a Grammy-Award-nominated country act as entertainment; one wonders how the company will top last year's performers, the handsome country crooners, Midland.
The ultimate rodeo IYKYK
In perhaps in Cookoff history, this tent will boast its own speakeasy — one that needs its own specially sanctioned key for access. The Golden Pony is a posh, fully air conditioned escape that Ahmed describes as "disco cowgirl meets whiskey room."
Here, on-theme accoutrements incude gold pony door knockers, taxidermed animal mounts (like the ones in the main tent), disco balls, quirky art. Luxe spirit Casa Del Sol will serve as the VIP room's exclusive tequila.
For those lucky enough to make it in, don't forget to snap a pic with the glorious golden pony — a great way to capture a night of horsin' around.
Kudos to Cotton Holdings for topping what seemed impossible to top, and proving that here in Houston, bigger is always better.