There’s something about Father’s Day Weekend that seems to make people want to grill. Last year Denver started its own massive festival in the parking lot of the Bronco’s Stadium that attracted fine pitmasters and plenty of pig and whiskey-fueled debauchery — enough to warrant a second go. But for something with a whole lot more tradition and a far better view the 2019 Colorado BBQ Challenge will return to the town of Frisco for its 26th incarnation. The event will kick off on the evening of Thursday, June 14 with an opening concert from local jam-outfit Eminence Ensemble — though sadly no meat will be served until the following morning. Beginning at 11 a.m. on Friday more than 70 barbeque masters begin competing in nearly every cookout category imaginable — pork, ribs, chicken, brisket, barbeque sauce and side dish — as well as team competitions for the coveted Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion. Friday’s event will carry on until 9 p.m. with Saturday’s going from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. — with live music continuing throughout the weekend concluding with a show from acclaimed local hip-hop band The Flobots.
Breckenridge Distillery will also host a special barbecue-inspired whiskey tour on June 14. The event features a behind-the-scenes look at the event, as well as some special tasting opportunities not afforded to ordinary attendees. While the event is already sold out, it should be noted that Breckenridge’s presence at the event is one of the major engines that fuel the proverbial fire, while the masters at work tend to the real ones.
For anyone feeling mildly guilty about their brash consumption, there is Saturday’s Bacon Burner 6K beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the Frisco Marina. Other events include pig races all day Friday and Saturday. While the contest may seem a touch macabre in the presence of so much meat, organizers assure the winners receive an Oreo for their troubles. Chef demos, a firefighter cookoff and obviously plenty of tasty ‘cue round out the free event.
While the festival is free, patrons must exchange cash for “hogbacks” — the festival currency — with most food set to cost between five to 12 of the tickets. Any leftover hogbacks can be used after the event at merchants in Frisco throughout the weekend. A list of participating merchants can be found at ticket booths and at the Visitor Information Center.
The event has long been both an occasion for the community to come together and an important institution for further betterment. Each year it has raised more than $50,000 for non-profit partners — encompassing Advocates for Victims of Assault, High Country Conservation Center, Mountain Mentors, the Summit County Restaurant Association, the Summit County Chamber of Commerce and Women of The Summit.
Many of the participants have been contributing for many years — a real sense of community is evident amongst the competitors, that is until the tournament — when camaraderie is tossed out the window until judgment. Despite a very real rivalry, the familial sense that can only arise from over two decades in the game is one of the celebration’s crowning achievements. While you certainly can’t go wrong doing your ‘cue in Denver, there’s an aura and a history to be found in Frisco that makes the flavor just that much juicier.
The event takes place at 300 Main St., Frisco. Admission is free.
All photography by Colin Wrenn and Alden Bonecutter.