Smokin’ in the Hills returns


Back for the third year but moving to a new location organizers think will be a better fit is the Smokin’ in the Hills BBQ Cookoff that will be held Saturday, Sept. 21 at the Rocky Fork State Park lakeside campground area.

“We want to create an event where teams, judges, guests and volunteers can enjoy barbeque, drinks, watch football on the big screen, and sit back and relax for one last summer event at the lake,” said Destiny Bryson of the Highland County Visitors Bureau, who is also coordinator for the event. “The committee believes this location will attract more visitors to the Rocky Fork region, which remains the goal for this community event. The change in location allows visitors to see the lake from another view with close proximity to the campgrounds, which is known for its perfect conditions.

The event is officially on the Kansas City Barbeque Society competition schedule and 38 teams have signed up to take part.

The official address for the competition is 9800 N. Shore Dr., Hillsboro.

“Smokin’ in the Hills cookoff has grown from 25 teams in year one to 30 teams in year two and has taken a giant leap to 38 teams for this year. These teams are coming from Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana, Rhode Island and even from Canada,” Bryson said. “With 38 teams, the KCBS rules require approximately 50 certified judges to judge the competition. Certified judges travel to competitions all over the country and do so on a volunteer basis. They do not receive compensation or even mileage reimbursement. So we are grateful to have our judges returning from previous years, and are excited to meet some new faces. Our judges are mostly from Ohio, but we do have some traveling from surrounding states as well.

The schedule of events for the include:

* 8:30 a.m. — Kids BBQ Competition

* 11 a.m. — Food vendors and beer garden open to the public

* 1:30 p.m. — Cook teams sampling event

* 4 p.m. — BBQ awards presentation

* 5 p.m. — Entertainment

* 8 p.m. — Event concludes

The Liberty Lions Club will serve as the organizer for the Kids BBQ Competition. Children ages 7-17 can form a team and register with a $10 entry fee. The kids will be cooking ground breakfast sausage for a panel of judges from the club. Grills can be provided by request or they can bring their own. Find the registration form and rules at Kids will need to check in at the event at 8:30 a.m., with cookoff at 9 a.m. and awards at 10 a.m. Contact Avery Elliott of The Frog and Club restaurant at [email protected].

The Burning Pig BBQ vending team will be the sole food vendor for the event. Its menu consists of your choice of ribs – full slab, half slab or three-bone sampler; pork sandwich; and brisket sandwich paired with a choice of sides of macaroni and cheese, BBQ pork baked beans or cornbread.

The Hillsboro Junior Women’s Club will be selling lemon shakes and coffee or hot chocolate. The Highland County Senior Citizens Center will be vending water and soda. The Hillsboro Rotary Club will handle the beer garden and provide an area for watching college football. Ohio State plays Miami of Ohio on Sept. 21 and the game time has not yet been released, but Rodney Donley of NCB and coordinator for Rotary’s Smokin in the Hills Committee will have it playing at the event.

“No matter the game time, football will be part of the day,” Bryson said.

Kids can enjoy a make-and-take craft activity under a Rent-to-Own tent, the 3n1 sports challenge, putt-putt golf or the playground.

Cook teams will turn in their BBQ entries from at noon until 1:30 p.m. Once turn-ins are complete, teams that wish to participate will have samples of their BBQ available to the public. Quantities will be limited and will be on a first-come, first-served basis by donation to the team sponsoring the samples.

“Our competition is one of the later events of the year, so teams look forward to having an opportunity to share and even earn a little return on their investment with your donation,” Bryson said. “This sampling event takes the place of the popular People’s Choice event that was held last year on Friday night.“

Bryson said there is no People’s Choice Contest this year because the cook teams will be focused on two auxiliary contests on Friday night. She said Smokin’ in the Hills has partnered with the American Competitive Steak Association and CaboWabo Margarita Masters.

The American Competitive Steak Association will host a steak cookoff. Participants do not have to be with a team. Anyone can come out with a grill and participate. The registration fee is $125 and comes with two steaks. Teams can register online at More details are provided on the website.

In addition, anyone interested in becoming an ACSA judge can register online at the above address. Judges must be a member of the ACSA organization, which includes a $35 annual fee, with the first year waived.

“While viewing of this contest is not open to the public, the invitation to compete or judge is, so if you think you grill the best steak around, come see how it stacks up in competition,” Bryson said.

The ACSA 2019 rankings are online and local residents Shawn and Rebecca Surber of High on the Hog are ranked No. 1 in the country. In fact, Bryson said, there are several local teams ranked within the top 25 including Smokin Hoosiers at No. 3, Convicted Pigs at No. 5, Uncle Toads at No. 12, and Ale Yeah BBQ at No. 23.

The CaboWabo Margarita Masters is back again this year. This event is closed to the public. At this time only teams participating in the cookoff can register for the contest. Each participant will be making their own version of a margarita made with CaboWabo blanco tequila. A panel of volunteer judges will judge the entries. The teams submit six drink samples and their recipe card. The winning drink is awarded money and prizes from Cabo and is featured throughout its marketing campaigns.

The BBQ teams will be competing for $9,000 in cash and prizes.

“This year, we are extremely excited to announce that students from Great Oaks have designed and created the trophies that will be presented during the 4 p.m. awards presentation. Students from the design class, welding class and automotive paint class worked together to create an awesome one-of-a-kind award for teams to take home. Come out to the awards presentation to see their work. We are thankful to Great Oaks for sponsoring the supplies for the trophies and offering this type of hands-on learning to local students,” Bryson said.

She also said the event would not be possible without contributions from sponsors. R+L Carriers returns as the signature sponsor.

”R+L Carriers is a family-owned and operated Global freight shipping company based in the United States where many folks from Highland County are employed. With over 50 years of service, R+L Carriers is a valuable employer to our region that serves the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Dominican Republic with job opportunities in LTL, truckload, business critical, logistics and more,” Bryson said.

National Cooperative Bank (NC), became a premier sponsor this year by awarding the committee a $2,500 grant. Southern State Community College is a premier sponsor for the third year running.

This year’s supporter sponsors include: Highland District Hospital, Buckeye Boat Repair and Mobile Service LLC, Hillsboro Elks 361, Team Bagshaw, Fifth Third Bank and Ag-Pro.

The 2019 contributor sponsors include: Frog Blasters International, Railroad Tools & Solutions LLC, Bear Mechanical LLC, Southern Hills Community Bank, Weastec, Lowe’s, People’s Bank, Midwest Coating BBQ Division, Merchants National Bank, Village of Mowrystown, S&S Contractors, City of Hillsboro, Rent 2 Own, Arven Facility Solutions, Larry’s Party Shop, Wilmington Savings Bank and First State Bank.

“The sponsorship dollars these businesses contribute to our community are greatly appreciated and we encourage you to return the favor and look to your local businesses first,” Bryson said.

Follow the event on its Facebook page @SmokinInTheHills and find applications on the website at

Local Four Guys and a Grill team members, from left, Jason McNeal, Jarrod Haines and Mel McKenzie, prepare chicken during last year’s Smokin’ in the Hills Barbeque Contest. Four Guys and a Grill team members, from left, Jason McNeal, Jarrod Haines and Mel McKenzie, prepare chicken during last year’s Smokin’ in the Hills Barbeque Contest. Times-Gazette file photo
3rd event is moving to Rocky Fork Campgrounds

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