Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

October 22, 2013

'Smoking For Hope' cook-off raises funds for H.O.P.E.

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Aroma. Appearance. Texture. Taste. Overall impression.

This is the mantra of — the bullet points for  — the courageous judges presiding over the "Smoking For H.O.P.E." barbecue competition each year.

And 2013 marked an excellent third year for the event.

It netted nearly $3,000 — $2,800 specifically  — to benefit the Raymond & Eloise Teague Center of H.O.P.E., 595 S. Ragsdale. (H.O.P.E. serves as a clearing house for churches and charitable agencies in Cherokee County.)

Participants paid either an advance entry fee of $65 or $75 at the gate and had the option of cooking brisket, chicken, ribs, chili, beans or dessert. There also was a $15 charge to stay at the Lake Jacksonville Campgrounds during the competition.

This year's judges included Tim Campbell, city code enforcement officer and brother to insanely-famous former professional NFL running back Earl "The Tyler Rose" Campbell.

Other judges were Diana K. Smith, an employee of Twin Oaks Nursing Home; truck driver David Walley; Blake Belyeu. a Luminant power plant employee and Ben Tinsley, the Jacksonville Daily News reporter writing the story you  currently are reading.

It was a chilly Saturday mostly, but there were nonetheless many contestants who showed up and went fiercely to work cooking. Scads of cute youngsters roamed around, yelling, giggling, laughing, running and generally having fun.

The chilly wind blew quite a bit, making initial cook off judging a very cold proposition.

But the judges had a lot of help from city employees doing their jobs. They kept the tables stocked with many helpful items to cleanse their palates between bites.

Dill pickle chips did the trick, as did crackers and bottled water.

There were multiple plastic spoons and forks on hand so judges could throw them away after one bite.

This way, there was no risk of judges "double dipping" into contestant food — swapping spit or accidentally sharing whatever else was in their mouths with everyone else.

The judges arrived Saturday morning to start their process of sampling and rendering opinions about the delicious array of dishes.

The dessert entries, which ranged in scope from peach cobbler with homemade vanilla ice cream to banana pudding, were exceptional, as was the chicken, chili and ribs.

This event originally was spearheaded by Jacksonville District 2 Councilman Jeff Smith, according to Jacksonville City Manager Mo Raissi.

Also present at the cook off was Jacksonville Public Works Director Will Cole. Cole said he believes the cook off could be the wave of the future.

"We feel like this is a really good deal and I think we need to get more public participation," Cole said. "It's a really good program and a shame that not that many people know about it."