Jeff Salyards of Dead 2 Rights BBQ grills up some tasty treats during the 2nd Annual Fiddle & Griddle Festival, Saturday. (Mark Wilson Photos)
Toes were tapping starting early on the Chaves County Courthouse lawn as fiddlers young and old began competing for top prizes during the second-annual Fiddle & Griddle Contest.
“It was a great day,” said Leona Rice. “I danced all day long.”
Temperatures started out in the upper 80s with a slight cooling breeze as guitars accompanied fine fiddle players on stage. Onlookers sat in the stands, on lawn chairs, blankets or whatever they could find.
As the day progressed and the desert sun hovered, temperatures fell shy of the 100 mark. The smell of oak and smoke blanketed the event that straddled the section of North Main Street, blocked from traffic for the festival.
Opposite of the non-stop fiddle playing, teams of skilled barbecue fanatics were hard at work cooking up portions of ribs, chicken and brisket with rub, secret sauce and spicy ingredients.
The atmosphere was one of good-times, family fun and country summertime sensory overload. The only thing missing was a beer vendor.
Main Street Roswell director Dusty Huckabee, also an event organizer, said the turnout was fantastic.
“We’ve heard nothing but good reports,” Huckabee said. “This could turn out to be just as big as the UFO festival.”
Two award-winning fiddle players from Idaho were invited to be guest judges to ensure judging this year was “above board,” Huckabee said.
Overall, Main Street Roswell was to award $20,000 in prizes for fiddlers and griddlers during the one-day competition. Fiddlers from several states, including Pennsylvania, Washington, Arkansas, Texas, Oregon and New Mexico played. Some were amateur and some were professional.
Garret Gatzmeyer and his wife stopped by the event from their home in San Antonio, Texas with their toddler in tow.
“We like little festivals,” Gatzmeyer said. “We got to hear some of the fiddling. It’s just nice they have stuff for families to do.”
Barbecue teams were competing for $8,000 in total prize money in four categories: best chicken, ribs, brisket and best overall.
This year’s barbecuing was more difficult than last as smokers were forced to improvise last night during the massive downpour and fierce lightning that struck Roswell, said head judge Cindy Wilson. But the outcome was still amazing and delicious, she said.
The “Dead 2 Rights” team said they had a good time despite the adverse weather.
“I think it went really well even though last night when the rain came in it blew up our sight,” said Todd Verciglio. “But we survived.”
The “Burnt Wood” team, with its king-sized 10-foot long homemade smoker, again dominated this year with their secret sauces and spicy rib rub.
Dave Wood, of Las Cruces said he built his master machine as a work in progress. He doesn’t compete professionally. But with one taste of his creations, cooked using oak fire in the pit below, it’s easy to understand why he sweeps the competition.
“He’s a firm believer in oak,” his wife Zana Wood said.
The team practices, but it can get expensive, she said. They cooked three racks of ribs and 15 chicken thighs. In all, the team won first overall, first in chicken and second in the rib category, taking home $2,000.
Team “Two Tons of Fun” from Roswell, first-time entrants, were big winners this year. Gary Phillips said he enjoyed the competition.
“They did a good job,” Phillips said. “They were really well organized. It was a really fun time. We kept it simple and make it like we like it.”
The team placed first in the ribs contest, winning $750 and third place in the overall division, taking home another $250.