'This is so sentimental': Houstonians say rodeo cookoff represents resilience

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Despite the fact that the rodeo cookoff was canceled in 2021, the conversation at NRG Park Thursday night was about cold weather, not COVID-19. The crowds came out for the 90th World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest.

Grant Pinkerton who own Pinkerton's Barbeque said, "I told one guy earlier, I'm happier than a pig in the mud!"

"This is so sentimental. We're back!" said Zinat Ahmed with Cotton Holdings. That company is the title sponsor of the cookoff.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner was also in attendance.

"For the city of Houston and this region, it represents our resilience," said Turner.

Two-hundred and fifty unique tents, cowboy hats, flags representing Texas pride, and all the smokers are back out at NRG Park.

"We have 250-lb and 160-lb whole hogs on the pit," said Pinkerton. "We have been smoking them for 24 hours.

As for his odds in the competition, Pinkerton said he never counts himself out.

"We're always in it to win it," said Lance Cavazos at the Tejas Barbacoa tent.

One cook was serving a fusion of Brazilian and Texas-style barbeque.

"This time you're going to see us on the stage," said Bruno Oliveira with Pitmasters Brazil. "This is the thing. We bring tropical flavors to the barbecue."

The smoker at the Warpig BBQ tent is a visual reminder that all the cooking is for a cause.

"We donate money back to the Lone Survivor Foundation and several other charities for veterans. So, everywhere we go, it's a rolling tribute. We bring exposure to those charities," said Dennis Butterworth.

Still, people remember this huge event is more than just about good food.

"This is all for the kids. There's a greater reason. We're all here for the food, the fun, and to get-together. But, it is all to give back," Ahmed said.

"What the city needs right now is some barbeque, some beans, some potato salad, and some good peach cobbler. That's what we need right now to lift everyone's spirits," said Turner.

There's plenty to go around at the cookoff all weekend. The grand champion will be announced on Saturday. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has already raised more than $20 million for scholarships in 2022.

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