Flames on the Flint trophy artist inspired by barbecue community

Published 5:32 pm Friday, March 10, 2017

Every trophy Dale Wilson makes is unique.

The 58-year-old welder doesn’t use computer technology to cut the metal for his barbecue competition awards. It’s all by hand. Each trophy is slightly different.

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That includes the trophies he built for the Flames on the Flint BBQ Cook Off this weekend in Bainbridge. Wilson has made the competition’s trophies for all four years. They are just a small handful of the thousands he has made since starting the endeavor five years ago.

A professional welder, Wilson has found his passion in designing barbecue trophies. He never intended it to take off like it has, though.

While at a competition at Brasstown Valley Resort in Young Harris five years ago, Wilson was invited to be part of an official Kansas City Barbecue Society team, despite never competing before.

“I said OK,” Wilson recalled. “The next question was, ‘You think you can make trophies?’ They knew I was a welder. So I started that up, and I haven’t looked back.”

The orders keep pouring in. He runs his business, Pirate 50 Custom Artwork and Trophies, through his Facebook page. Every day comes with a slew of new requests.

Competitions in across the U.S., England, France and Switzerland have messaged in to commission his trophies.

Wilson was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Florida. He grew up making fish metal art. They sold well in the area, but the hustle and bustle of the city got to him. He moved eight years ago.

“I got tired of the traffic,” Wilson said. “I moved to Murphy, North Carolina, where a traffic jam is three cars.”

He works from home with a shop two steps from his backdoor. He can fire up plasma cutters and compressors at 2 a.m., with no neighbors to complain about the noise.

Wilson is a spur of the moment creator. Anything getting in the way of his inspiration is removed.

“The wife already knows,” Wilson said. She understands where he’s going when he leaps out of bed in the middle of the night. “She will just lay there.”

Wilson’s newest trophy development is opting for aluminum material instead of steel.

“I haven’t done aluminum—ever,” Wilson said. “I was working with steel, and I started doing the international trophies. The shipping was killing me, and for them too. Customs is also ridiculous. So I thought I needed to try something different. I tried a sheet of aluminum two months ago.”

Flames on the Flint will be the second competition he’s used aluminum for. The third will be the Fire Ant Festival in Ashburn.

There’s no sign of stopping for Wilson. Now that he has gotten involved in competing in the competitions he builds trophies for, the artist experiences the competitive barbecue circuit a couple different ways.

What he has found is a community unlike any other.

“It’s amazing. It’s great once you get to know everybody,” Wilson said. “I started out just walking through, doing the trophies and trying to sell signs. Once I got a taste of the competition and cooking, I thought I could do this.”

The competitors are friendly, Wilson found. If somebody needed a pan, an ingredient or even meat, there was a cook ready to help. The fellowship goes beyond the competition site. If he broke down anywhere between his home in Murphy and Florida, there is somebody in Wilson’s phone he can call.

“In 10 minutes there will be somebody there to help you out,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s trophies will be presented to the Flames on the Flint winners Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Earle May Boat Basin.