3-day barbecue competition kicks off in Mannington with new attractions

·4 min read

May 21—MANNINGTON — The scent gives it away.

For the fourth year, Mannington's Hough Park is filled with trailers, RVs, smokers and grills as part of the Forks of the Buffalo BBQ Throwdown, a nationally-sanctioned event by the Kansas City Barbeque Society.

Formally known as the Smokin' on the Buffalo BBQ Brawl, the event has rebranded but is bringing the same fun and food as the last four years with several new additions to attract all ages.

John Craw, Mannington city councilmember and organizer of the throwdown, said that barbecue has always been special to him.

"Back in my Marine Corps days, me and my Marines whenever we'd get off duty would go back to my house and smoke ribs or pork butt or anything really," Craw said. "I started getting pretty decent at it and I've even done a couple competitions myself."

This competition is what's called a "double," which means teams will set up one night, cook over night then turn in the meat for the first judging and do it all again the next night.

Friday evening, competitors had already set up camp at the fairgrounds and had already started smoking their meats for Saturday's judging. The cooks will have to make either two meats or four depending on their classification as amateur or pro.

Twenty-five teams are registered to participate in this year's competition and Craw and his judges are excited to see what this year's slate of cooks come up with.

"This is next-level stuff. What these teams do all comes down to one bite. Everything they do in preparation is for just one bite," Craw said. "It also comes down to presentation. They get one Styrofoam box to fill with their meat and give to the judges and every bite has to look exactly the same. It's incredible the amount of detail these teams put into it."

The winner of the cookoff will receive the chance to represent West Virginia at the Jack Daniels Worldwide Invitational BBQ Championship, which is scheduled for Oct. 14-15 in Lynchburg, Tennessee.

A new addition to this year's event is a selection of local food and craft vendors lining the parking lot behind the Hough Park stage.

Over 40 vendors will be set up to sell their goods over the weekend. Chelsea Craw, a member of the event committee and this year's vendor organizer, said the intent of the vendor area was to add a piece to the fun, so it wasn't just for folks who like barbecue.

"We wanted to have a little something for everyone," Chelsea Craw said. "We knew that if we had vendors and other festivities throughout the festival, we'd bring in people of all sorts, it wouldn't just be people who are interested in the barbeque aspect."

In addition to the vendors, RSW Wrestling is holding an event at the festival Saturday night and a performance by the Marshall Lowry Band will follow. The rest of the weekend will be punctuated by a car cruise-in, award ceremonies, people's choice awards and a cornhole tournament.

Another first at this year's event is the Forks of the Buffalo Beauty Pageant. Co-organizers Priscilla Bennett and Sophia Wayne hope that after this year's pageant, each year they can send a queen to represent the festival at the state Fairs and Festivals competition.

"That's our hope for next year, to have our queen represent the festival to the state," Bennett said. "Unfortunately to enter the state competition our pageant has to stand alone for one year, so this year we hope our queen can make appearances around the event and present the awards for the barbecue winners."

Overall, the organizers are excited to bring fun and food to Mannington. The festival will continue throughout this weekend, for a full list of events and schedules, visit www.softhebuffalobbqthrowdown.com.

"I just love Mannington, this is my hometown and it's a beautiful city," John Craw said. "The fact that all these teams want to come here is awesome."

Reach David Kirk at 304-367-2522 or by email at dkirk@timeswv.com.