Barbecue competitors fire up smokers for Flames on the Flint BBQ Cook Off

Published 5:50 pm Friday, March 11, 2016









If you’re coming down Shotwell Street toward the Earle May Boat Basin this weekend, you’ll be greeted with a sight you may not be used to. You might catch also catch a whiff of smoky meat or hear th buzz and chatter of people.

Trailers with their hometowns printed on the side from all over the country are packed tightly along the Flint River for the third annual Flames on the Flint BBQ Cook Off. Some are here for the camaraderie, the friendship. Others are trying out new recipes or rubs. But just about everybody wants a shot at the $50,000 purse prize.

Joey Sutphen of Borger, Texas, has been cooking barbecue competitively since the early 1980s. He’s retired, able to travel to tournaments throughout the U.S. sporting his signature sauces and witty humor.

“It’s just a fun time and I get to see the same people,” Sutphen said. “It’s like going to a class reunion every year. Some of these guys I don’t see but once a year.”

He takes a sign with him that he sets outside his trailer at every competition. In big letters it reads some of his favorite jokes and sayings. “This stuff is soooo good it will make you bring back things you didn’t even steal!” is his main slogan.

Other competitors are just starting out, like Daniel Patrick from Jacksonville, Florida. Patrick grew up perfecting rubs and sauces with his dad. When he joined the Navy, friends tasted what he was cooking and encouraged him to compete.

It wasn’t until he won a backyard competition in his hometown of Vidalia that he realized there might be something to it.

“I won first place in ribs and sixth in chicken out of 20-something people,” Patrick said. “I was stationed up in Virginia, and I started competing with some guys up there. We started getting wood sponsors and all these other sponsors. It just kind of blossomed from there.”

This is Patrick’s third year in competition barbecue. It’s his first time at Flames on the Flint. Helping him this year is his girlfriend, Julia Kowalski.

There are other cooks who had to come back. Maybe it was a sense of duty, or maybe retribution. For one cook, it was to honor Bill Allen, the man who passed away last year minutes after winning first place in the chicken category with a perfect score of 180.

Bruce Josey, Allen’s partner, is back, and he’s looking to take first place again.

“I was with him when we took first place,” Allen said. “I’m going to do the same thing as last year.”

Josey said he hopes to bring the first place trophy back to Allen’s wife.

The Flames on the Flint BBQ Cook Off Awards Ceremony will be Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at the Performing Arts Building by the Earle May Boat Basin.