The 31st annual Cherokee Strip Barbeque and Chili Cook-Off is all set for this Saturday, September 16, to be held on the shores of Lake Ponca.
The event is hosted each year by Professionals Today, a local civic organization of career women.
At stake for competitors is over $15,250 in prizes.
On the plate for the appreciative attendees will be a veritable feast of barbeque, chili, and other menu items decidedly delicious.
The result — cash, prizes, and satiated hunger pains aside — is a benefit for the Hospice of North Central Oklahoma.
Hospice of North Central Oklahoma is a non-profit, free-standing community Hospice. Support coverage includes all of Kay County, and areas of Grant, Noble, and Osage Counties.
Hospice NCO offers medical and emotional support to terminally ill patients and their families. Their services are individualized to meet family and patient needs and range from social services to 24-hour emergency care skilled nursing.
Since its inception, the proceeds from this event have been given to the local hospice. In the first 30 years, the event has raised almost $500,000 for this local, non-profit hospice care provider.
As a major North Central Oklahoma event, the cook-off brings new faces and thousands of new tourism dollars to the community. This event is an official state championshipcontest sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society. It attracts dozens of professional barbecue cooks from across the region, in part due to generous prize money and moreover in that the Cook-Off helps competitors qualify for prestigious cook-offs like the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue and American Royal.
The event is at Lake Ponca. Cross the bridge on the south end of the lake and you can’t miss it. The cooks come in all day Friday to set up for the event and then the competition and public tasting is Saturday.
This year’s cook-off has been dedicated to the late Vance Johnson, who cooked at our cook-off many times and was one of the local bbq guys that helped to start the BBQ competition alongside the original chili competition. Employees at the Pioneer Technology Center headed up a collection in Johnson’s memory.
There are two competitions within the Cook-Off. Some barbeque chefs are competing professionally, gathering points towards national competitions like the American Royal or the Jack Daniels contest. Still more cooks enter the more local “People’s Choice” contests in BBQ and Chili. Over half of the competitors compete at both levels.
Suitably enough, the general public — read the people with sauce dripping on their collective chins — vote forthe people’s choice award.
Tasting kit coupons are available to the general public for $5 in advance or $7 at the Cook-Off.
Over $15,250 in prizes are on the table along with the meats to be tasted and judged.
Nearly 50 teams have already entered the contest, jumpstarted by the generous offer of Danny and Carey Head — of Danny’s BBQ Head Quarters and everyone’s favorite local sauce fame — to pay the $175 KCBS entry fee for the first 20 teams that entered.
The supportive of the Head “country” approach is indicative of the event’s local charm. At its core, the annual cook-off is a community event notes Robin Ryan, chair of the 2017 Cherokee Strip BBQ Cook-Off who also chaired in 2001 and 2014.
“The event would not be possible without generosity of community, and I know there are a lot of people who look forward to this lakeside gathering each year,” Ryan says. “We expect this to be a record year because of the many sponsors in our community. We could not put this event on without so much community support. I feel like part of the passion comes from hunger for good food shared at the lakeshore, but more because our beneficiary, Hospice of NCO,makes such a huge impact on people in this community.”
In that community spirit, Stuart Powell, owner of Cookshack, has donated a Cookshack Pellet Fired Pizza Oven valued at $4,999 with the winner will be drawn at the event.
Live music entertainment will also be featured, with a slate of artists taking the stage starting at about 11 a.m. For more information on entertainment, see page 5C.
Entertainment for children will be available as well with an inflatable play station called “Bongo,” that is a combination bounce house and slide that is 30 feet long and 20 feet wide, to be open to the public attending the cook-off.
The tasting tickets are available from Professionals Today members, including the Ponca City News’ own Louise Abercrombie, along with Ann Bandy, Echo Blanton, Dawna Bowman, Dawn Brakey, Nancy Brown, Terri Busch, Jan Emo, Jodie Frazier, Karen Hoogendoorn, LorRae Jones, Erin Liberton, Mandy Morris, Pat Morris, Leasha Moser, Jeri Casey-Nash, Sissi Nemer, Janis Partain, Christina Rich-Splawn, Debbie Robinson, Robyn Ryan, Carla Savage, Shasta Scott, Karen Sherbon, De Steele, Marta Sullivan, and Melissa Young.
“The women in my club who put in this effort each year are amazing. It’s a real team effort to bring this together to put on a big day for everyone,” says Ryan.
For more information, go to www.cherokeestripcookoff.com.