Theodore couple wins ECHS barbecue festival

Bull & Bones of Theodore was the BBQ Festival’s Grand Champion. Shown, from left, are Leslie Sellers, B&B’s Steve Hamilton and Debra Hamilton, and Stephanie Buitron.

Last weekend’s Atmore Barbecue Festival provided local residents with an opportunity to sample some of the best grilled chicken, ribs and pork in the area, while also contributing to the economies of five of those communities.

All 12 trophies and every penny of the $2,650 prize money went to a handful of “outside teams” who were judged the best of the bunch at the event, which took place Friday and Saturday (April 21-22) at Tom Byrne Park.

The fundraiser festival, which featured 14 grilling teams, was sponsored by Escambia County High School’s yearbook staff.

Awards were presented by ECHS yearbook sponsor Leslie Sellers, Principal Dennis Fuqua and Stephanie Buitron with ECHS Career and Technical Education.

Steve and Debra Hamilton, who made up the Theodore-based Bull & Bones team, took home $1,100 and three first-place trophies. The duo not only earned Grand Champion honors and the $500 that went with the title, but also were the winners in the chicken and ribs categories which paid $300 each.

The husband-wife team also received a proclamation of commendation from Gov. Kay Ivey. The governor’s office generally issues such proclamations to the winners of about 20 different cooking competitions across the state.

Team Ballinger of Mobile, which consisted of Shawn, Melanie and Blake Ballinger, took home the Reserve Champion trophy and a $200 check, as well as second-place hardware and two more checks of $200 each for their chicken and pork.

Groundhog Smokers, a five-man team from Orange Beach, cooked up $400 worth of prize money and two trophies for showings of first place and third place, respectively, in the pork and ribs categories. Team members are Joe Griffin, Horace Gardner, Jason Jackson, Jim White and Jon Perkins.

The remaining trophies and cash went to Fairhope’s Pig Pirates team, which pocketed $150 as winners of the Anything Butts competition, along with another $200 for third-place finishes in the chicken and pork categories, and to the team that traveled the furthest, Ft. Pierce, Fla.-based Dadgum Good BBQ, which took the second-place trophy and a $200 check in the ribs division.

The Anything Butts category, which was conducted Friday night, generated enough money to cover nearly all of the event’s eventual payout, with 100 people paying $20.

The Groundhog Smokers team members were in agreement that the second annual festival was a well-organized event.

“It was a great venue, and the competition was well-run,” said Griffin, while White added that “the hospitality was unbelievable.”