The smoky scents of barbecued brisket, chicken and pork ribs will signal the start of this year’s Wharton County Youth Fair BBQ Cook-Off, which kicks off one week before the 45th annual fair opens in early April.
WCYF events were canceled in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and many will be limited this year. The 2021 fair will begin on April 16 and conclude on April 24, with the cook off starting one week prior on April 9.
“We wanted our exhibitors to have a chance to exhibit their projects,” WCYF President Ed Weinheimer said via a press release. “This is something these kids and their parents and grandparents look forward to each year.”
Up to 92 teams consisting of one chief cook and four adult assistants will be allowed to compete in this year’s Cook Off in brisket, chicken or pork ribs categories. Dishes will be judged on color, aroma, texture and taste.
First through fifth place winners in the three categories earn plaques. The highest scoring Wharton County team in the brisket category will win $1,000 and represent WCYF at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Cook-Off in 2022. First place teams for ribs and chicken and the second place team for brisket will earn free entry in the 2022 WCYF cook off.
Cook off categories for beans, chili and “Most Colorful” will not be held in 2021. COVID-19 safety practices are encouraged at the cook off, WCYF BBQ Chair Sandy Valigura told the newspaper Tuesday, but rules regarding food distribution or crowd limitations are not currently in place.
“Texas is open,” Valigura said. “There will be safety measures in place for the judging of this event. We encourage safety at all the events regarding COVID-19.”
Livestock and creative arts exhibitions will take place this year, with safety modifications, as well as rodeo and pageant events. Animals and art entries will be expected to be removed from the fairgrounds after being shown, to limit the number of people gathering for extended periods of time.
Exhibitors will be required to wear masks while on the fairgrounds, including when showing. Attendees will be encouraged to social distance.
The fair’s senior and preschool days will not be held this year, due to the pandemic, and neither will the carnival, dances, concerts, midway entertainment – like the petting zoo– or bull riding events.
“We know how disappointed they (youth participants) were in 2020 when everything was canceled, and we’re happy we are able to give them the opportunity to show their projects this year,” Weinheimer said.
Decisions regarding this year’s fair schedule were finalized at the WCYF board’s March 9 meeting, with a majority voting to hold a limited fair instead of canceling or delaying it.
“This was a big decision that affects everyone,” Weinheimer said. “From our exhibitors and parents, to our volunteers and staff, and I felt like we should be unified as a board on this decision.”
The cost of entering the cook off is $150 and entries are still being accepted. All Cook Off contestants must be at least 21 years old to enter.
Daily admission to the fair is $5, or season passes will be available for $20. WCYF is held on the Wharton County Fairgrounds, 6036 FM 961, Wharton.
For event entry forms or more information on the 2021 WCYF, visit https://www.whartoncountyyouthfair.org.