HURON – Some roll into the South Dakota State Fairgrounds in impressive rigs, while others come to Huron with cooking equipment that’s far less expensive.
Competitors also run the gamut in terms of experience.
But they all enjoy the camaraderie each spring, and they all have the same chance to take home a trophy.
For hometown boy Trevor Gerrits and The Gerrit Boys, the Original South Dakota BBQ Championships has been on their schedule for 12 years.
“We’re up and down,” he said when asked about their success. “When we started out, we did OK, and we got better for awhile and then we kind of went back and forth and we keep coming back.
“It’s all organization,” Gerrits said. “The more organized, it seems the better we can do with it.”
BJ Hughes and Brooks Alexander of Ree Heights are newbies, who only began competing the middle of last summer.
They started off doing a rib cook off in Highmore, and last weekend entered a contest in Gettysburg.
“We’re set up pretty good now,” Hughes said. “We don’t do anything part way,” added Alexander.
They named their team B&B Food Factory.
“We just had a little tent and we set up and we thought it was fun and we decided that this was going to be the new hobby for awhile,” he said of their first competition last summer. They’ve gone from a small tent to a good-sized rig.
“We get after it when we do something,” Hughes said. “We used to have a boat and got rid of the boat and bought this and are going to do this.”
James Chamberlain of Homer, Neb., has his own barbeque team, but this weekend he’s helping his son-in-law, Andrew Johnson of Brandt, S.D., and his team, Scrap Metal BBQ.
They have not been in the Huron competition before, but wanted to try a Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned event.
Chamberlain said they have entered contests in smaller towns for about five years.
Are there any cooking tips he’d like to share?
“No,” he said, laughing. “Competition’s already tough.”
Johnson’s nickname is Scrap Metal, “because his first smoker he built out of scrap metal,” Chamberlain said. “The second one, same thing.”
Steve Weishair of Eagle Bend, Minn., was here for the first time last year. He heard about the contest from Scott Thomasson, whose Moorhead, Minn., team, Pigtamer BBQ, has competed here before. The two are set up side by side this weekend.
Weishair’s team is Borgy the BBQ Butcher. He’s been called Borgy for decades.
“And the butcher part is because that’s my trade,” he said. “That’s what I’ve done all my life.”
Beer Belly BBQ’s Grant Aldinger drove seven hours from Glendive, Mont., to compete in Huron. He was here the first time about three years ago.
He’s entered contests as far away as California, and will likely be in Colorado this summer.
“We’ll try to hit about anywhere between seven and 10 this year,” he said.
The South Dakota competition is a fun contest, he said.
“You’ve got a good mix of really experienced and newer teams, so you never know,” Aldinger said.
The Gerrit Boys have also competed in Watertown, Vermillion, Kansas City, Tennessee and Minnesota.
“Anybody can do it,” Gerrits said. “You can do it on almost anything. People do it on some really small equipment.
“When I first started, we cooked on refrigerators,” he said. “Then I built a cooker that you didn’t have to maintain quite so much. We used that one when we won this contest back in 2011. That same year, we came across this cooker and just for ease of use, just for getting it around, we use this one now.”
Weishaar, the butcher from Minnesota, praised the local folks who run the competition here year after year.
“I tell you what, the camaraderie, the cooks from South Dakota and everybody that’s involved in putting this thing on, they treat you great, they treat you like kings,” he said.
“Barbque is one thing, but it’s all about who you get to hang out with and that makes a world of difference,” he said. “It’s like going camping. You go with people you like.”