Meat of the Matter

Swine not” head over to the 9th annual “Porkin’ on the River” barbecue competition at the Laughlin River Lodge?
The only motivation most people need is that heady aroma of hickory or mesquite wood smoke winding its way through the Colorado River valley enticing them to follow their noses to the Scott Hayes, a.k.a. “Smokey Hayes “Porkin’ on the River,” on Saturday, March 7, the 9th annual BBQ competition featuring 25 teams of pro cookers doing ribs to butts this year.
While this event is not sanctioned by any entity, many of these cooks are members of IBCA (International Barbecue Cookers Association) and/or KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue Society). Some are just backyard cooks who simply love to serve up tasty cuts of meat for friends and family.
Hayes is a local Fort Mohave, Arizona, resident who has won his own fare share of BBQ competitions. He thought Laughlin would make a nice spot for a major cook-off so he put on his first event a few years ago at other places on both sides of the river. Things went well and monies were raised for local charities, so the BBQ returns again, to the Laughlin River Lodge.
“We are now the only barbecue competition in Laughlin,” Hayes said. “This competition is very, very public oriented and we want them to come out, taste and have as much fun as the teams cooking.
“This year we will have Russ and Roberta Moruzzi of ‘This Butt’s for You’ Competition BBQ Team, a local team who has placed first in a past year, returning to compete,” Hayes said. “We will also have Mike Cathcart of ‘Vegas Grillbillies,’ who was Grand Champion of the Nevada BBQ Association’s Pro BBQ series; Christie Vanover of ‘Girls Can Grill,’ who was Reserve Grand Champion in the Pro Series and the Backyard Series; and Michael Korr of ‘Rip N Bones BBQ,’ who was Grand Champion for the Backyard series in 2019.”
Also competing this year will be — 5th Gear BBQ, All Up In My Grill, Bad Dude Q, BBQ Rangers, Big Johns BBQ, Braeswood BBQ, BS BBQ Team, Burnin and Lootin, Dad’s BBQ, Family Tradition Smoken BBQ, Grillan Villains, Ironhorse Smokers, Jessie Rae’s BBQ, Rooftop Barbeque, Sho Dawg BBQ, Smokin it up BBQ, Squat and Gobble Barbeque, Stevo’s BBQ Team, Sweet Heat Meat Q, Swine Time and TRT BBQ.

The when, what, where…
The BBQ competition/party takes place in the front parking lot of the Laughlin River Lodge with Friday reserved for the cookers doing set-up and engaging in the One Bite Beef & One Bite Pork Challenge, winner take all “friendly” BBQ competition not intended for the public.
Saturday is when the serious business gets underway with the cookers getting at it as early as 4 or 5 a.m. to have things done and ready by the judging time of 12:30 p.m. for ribs and 1 p.m. for pork shoulder. But the public can get in on things as early as 10 a.m., when the party starts with live music by the “on-the-edge blues band,” Catbone, and open cash bar and outdoor vendors offering up their products. The aroma of the barbecue will only add to the party’s atmosphere in nothing but a good way.
The public also gets a jump on the judges with sampling of the barbecue beginning at noon. There is a $2 per person admission charge.

The meat of the matter…
This year’s event will have teams competing in two categories — pork ribs and pork shoulder. There will be two top cash prizes of $1,500 for Grand Champion (best overall regardless of category) and $1,000 for Reserved Grand Champion (second place overall). There will also be cash prizes paid for first through eighth place in each category.
The BBQ is of the traditional design in that all the meat must be cooked on either charcoal, wood or pellets; no propane, no electric, no pre-boiling.
The judges for the event are certified with either the IBCA or the KCBS and have had training in the “art” of judging these kinds of contests. It is an “art” because, as Smokey Hayes explains, they have to be above their own biases. That is, if they don’t like a certain spice, but one of the entries is so spiced, yet the pork flavor comes through and is enhanced, they have to give the entry high marks. Tricky thing to do, but that is where the training comes in.
The judges will be looking for three qualities in the BBQ:
• Appearance — the first impression carries a lot of weight. The judging begins as soon as the judges open the taster boxes and look at the ribs or pulled pork. If they are thinking, “Man, I can’t wait to dive into that,” then that entry is off and running.
• Taste — this one’s obvious, but as stated, it can be tricky due to preferences; but overall, does the meat taste as good as it looks, or in some cases, better than it looks; and would a judge order a second helping if he had to pay for it;
• Tenderness — the average backyard BBQer would want the meat to “fall off the bone,” but according to Hayes, this is a “no no” in the world of competition.
“You want it to have a tug when it comes off the bone,” said Hayes. “Then it’s not overdone or underdone but done just right.” The pork shoulder shouldn’t be of the texture of slow cooker beef, but it too, should have a bit of resistance to the bite.

Let the people judge…
There are other judges at the event who won’t be so much into the look or “tug” aspects of the meat but are all in with the taste. These judges are the people attending who will hand out their own “People’s Choice Award” via voting chips.
Sample tickets will be available at 11 a.m. for $10 per five tickets.
“People can start sampling at noon,” Hayes said. “But what we’re doing is selling the tickets in $10 lots only. For the $10, they’ll get five sample tickets and one voting chip so they can go around to any team, give them a sample ticket, then they get a sample of ribs or shoulder BBQ. Whichever team they liked the best, they give ’em the voting chip. Whichever team has the most chips will win $100 and a trophy.”
Teams will be cooking Kansas City style, Texas style, Carolina style and many other styles. Kansas City style barbecue refers to the regional barbecue style of slowly smoked meat that originated from the pit of Henry Perry in the early 20th century in Kansas City, Missouri. Texas barbecue traditions can be divided into four general styles: East Texas, Central Texas, South Texas, and West Texas. With Central Texas style most common — The meat is rubbed with spices and cooked over indirect heat from pecan or oak wood. While there are many styles of BBQ, we know one thing about them all, they’re all down right good.
Hayes, the event organizer who started this competition nine years ago, said the reason he started the competition was because there were no barbecue competitions in the area back then and he wanted to do something that would bring people and fellow barbecue enthusiasts together.
“Since that first competition I organized, I have learned many, many things,” Hayes said. “A competition must be an enjoyable experience for the teams, judges and the public. Without the teams, judges and public support we would not be here today.
“This being my 9th year, I believe that we are doing things right but we can always improve on what we do,” he added. “Everyone needs to come on over and bring the family for this wonderful event.”
For further information, call Hayes at 928-763-5853 or email:


Front Parking Lot at the Laughlin River Lodge

Saturday, March 7 (gates open at 10 a.m.)

$2 admission; sampling tickets are five for $10