|SADDLE-UP Pigeon Forge, Art by Don Dane|
Kicking off the 13th annual Saddle Up events held at Pigeon Forge, Tennessee was renown chuckwagon cook Kent Rollins accompanied by his wife Shannon and the Red River Ranch Chuck Wagon as he fired up his trusty ranch stove he politely calls Bertha. Tourist were able to sample his delicious staples of cornbread at the Town Square on the opening of the events.
Pigeon Forge Mayor, David Wear met with the City Hospitably Association stating, "Every business sector was up having a phenomenal year during 2012." Gross receipts total were $905.8 million for last years tax revenues breaking their previous record of $872.5 million 2007 prior to the recession. "If we get to one billion a year while I'm still in office, I'll get up here and dance a jig in front of you," Wear said.
Pigeon Forge, with a population around 6,000 attracts over 10 million tourist each year nested on the banks of the Smokey Mountain range. Special Events manager, Butch Helton coordinates the many events held in the city which has revenues booming while attracting nation wide tourism. "Saddle Up is our way to salute the Old West and Western lifestyle" explains Helton. They not only put on great events, but the city management works with the many hotels, restaurants and other businesses supporting and promoting tourism to Pigeon Forge. The friendly attitude and atmosphere has visitors feeling so welcome, they highly desires to return for additional visits.
The Saddle-Up event, which began on Wednesday with the free cornbread sampling, ran through Sunday during the last week of February. Featuring several concerts, a chuck wagon cook-off, a Western Dance Saturday night and Cowboy Church and breakfast Sunday, "We had the largest turnout yet" remarked Richard Holmes, a resident from Georgia who assisted with the big event. "This year, we also added a video presentation and Western photography exhibit by award-winning local photographer Ken Jenkins" commented Holmes.
Visitors could also take part in traditional cowboy activities, such as mechanical bull-riding and lassoing, as well, two outstanding Mississippi Cowboys conducted branding demonstrations on cedar wood blocks during Saturday's chuckwagon cook-off. Seven chuck wagons competed with wagon teams coming from Missouri, Indiana, North Carolina and Georgia. Each wagon team was given identical ingredients for the competition menu expecting to serve 50 meals while Kent Rollings would cater an additional 300 meals from his Red River Ranch Chuck Wagon.
The all-star lineup of performers includes award-winning poets, fiddlers and yodelers such Chris Isaacs, Waddie Mitchell, Dave Stamey, Sourdough Slim, and Wylie & the Wild West. Many of the events were hosted by area restaurants, shops and theaters with performances at the Old Mill Square, Mama's Farmhouse restaurant, the Partridge & Pear restaurant, Smoky Mountain Guitars, Stages West and two major shows at the Grand Majestic Theater.
Western artist, Don Dane from Olathe, Kansas was available signing posters of the event. Don, who uses different mediums such as oil and water color was commissioned by the Pigeon Forge Committee to paint the original artwork used to create the event poster. Don has also been featured in Western Horseman Magazine and has received numerous awards for his art.
Before the break of dawn, the embers glowing from the fire pits as the chuckwagon crews get ready for the days big event, the Chuckwagon Cook-off. The aroma of fresh brewing coffee lingers over each camp as the cooks begin breaking out the different ingredients for the competition menu. Wagon Judges Rem Mosimann, rancher-saddle maker who formerly was the assistant manager of with the historic Bell Ranch in New Mexico joined by Roger Edison from Cowboys and Chuckwagon Cooking begin inspecting each wagon following strict guidelines established with the American Chuck Wagon Association. Every wagon representing authentic 1880 cooking as the coosies did during the trail drives.
Shannon Rollins of Red River Ranch is rolling out dough dusting flour as she prepares for the event. Kent and Shannon are not competing in the event, though are preparing the same meal as each wagon team. While the competing wagons will serve 50 plates per wagon, the Red River Ranch Chuck Wagon will provided an additional 300-350 meals. "We were hoping we could feed everyone, but unfortunately we had to turn some people away," remarked special event manager Butch Helton. While the ticket sells for the meals quickly sold out, Pigeon Forge worked to accommodate the large crowd with the RED RIVER RANCH Chuck Wagon picking up the slack.
Quickly finding the fresh brewing coffee at the Still Hangin' camp, judges are treated to the rich dark brew that's filled with full flavor. When one of the judges ask if they had any cream, the wagon team was quick to ask, "Would you like a splash of Bailey's." Those Missouri boys sure make great coffee. Wagon Judge, Roger Edison gave a great big grin replying, "Now this is some really good Cowboy Coffee."
Chuck Wagon Teams:
Rockin R Chuckwagon owned by Randy "Big Boy" Dyer traveled from Clay City, Indiana to compete in the event. He purchased the wagon from the granddaughter of it's original owners. Adding the chuck box, Randy fully restored the Huntingburg converting it into a working chuckwagon. Competing in Texas, Georgia, Minnesota, Tennessee and many demonstrations across the nation, Randy stated his favorite event is working the annual benefit each Memorial Day called the Wounded Warrior Project held in Lebanon, Missouri. As a Vietnam veteran, Randy understands the importance an appreciates the opportunity to help support those who serve our nation.
Still Hangin Chuckwagon, owned by Steven Hull from Lebanon, Missouri operates his restored wagon built in the late 1800's by Brown Manufacturing Corporation that formed in 1879 constructing plows and other agricultural farm implements in Zanesville, Ohio. Steve along with dear friends, Mitch Morgan, Mark Day and Jeff Jenkins fully restored this collectors piece. The Missouri team has competed in many other states with chuckwagon cooking. After assisting Cowboys for Hero's at Fort Sam Houston, Texas several years ago, the Still Hangin crew decided to help put on a special event assisting Wounded Warriors also. Steve, a former Vietnam veteran has also worked with the Department of Defense for over 30 years and his team members like Mitch made a career serving with the Armed Forces. At Pigeon Forge, the wagon crew was joined by Mitch's son, Staff Sergent Mitch Mitchell Jr and Private First Class Jack Sykes both serving in the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virgina. To read more about the Wounded Warriors Project, visit the STILL HANGIN' web site.
|Still Hangin' Chuckwagon Crew Mark Day, Mitch Morgan Sr., Steve Hull, Jeff Jenkins joined by Staff Sergeant Mitch Morgan Jr. and Private First Class Jack Sykes|
Grumpy's Grub, owned by Gregg Allen from Rome, Georgia operates a 1904 wagon built by Nissen Wagon Works. John Philip Nissen opened a wheelwright shop on Waughtown Hill, North Carolina in 1834 and by 1850 grew to become one of the largest wagon manufactures of the south which continued the manufacturing of wagons until the family sold the business in 1925. Gregg's team included Jonathan Ford and Roger Grizzle. Gregg got started chuckwagon cooking twelve years ago after being invited to assist a friend who owns the Fairplay Cattle Company wagon. Gregg became hooked, later purchasing his wagon from a native Texan, Richard Holmes who moved to Georgia nearly a decade ago. When asked about his chuckwagon teams name, Gregg laughs stating his grand-daughter Lorean always called him Grump instead of gramps or grandpa. After purcahsing the wagon needing a team name, his grand-daughter insisted on Grumpy's Grub and the name stuck. Gregg is also the 2013 Vice President of the American Chuck Wagon Association Southeast Chapter. When he's is not competing, he caters cowboy cooking in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee and has competed as far off as Texas, but his favorite events are school programs sharing the history and legacy of the American west.
Greenhorn Cattle Company, owned by Sammy Hogan, from Gordon County, Georgia has been competing in chuckwagon competitions for nearly five years. He was introduced to chuckwagon cooking by his friend Greg Allen, of Grumpy's Grub. One day Gregg needed some help catering from the chuckwagon and Hogan was more than happy to assist. Hogan and Allen who have competed together for many years on the same team now compete against each other but remain great friends. Gregg also sold him the running gear to build the Greenhorn Cattle Company Chuckwagon. Using blueprints of an 1868 chuck wagon and the Florence Wagon Work running gear, Sammy built his wagon. Today, he operates his wagon with with Billy Peeples and Jesse Peeples both from Chatsworth, Georgia stating his love interacting with visitors who are curious about history of Cowboys and the cattle drives along with the camaraderie amongst all the different teams.
|Cindy and Troy Reddick, Skillet and Spurs joined by Phyllis and Brian Frederick|
Skillet and Spurs is owned and operated by Troy and Cindy Reddick of Vidalia, Georgia. Troy who has been cooking from cast iron cookware for well over two decades nearly missed the competition as he was hospitalized from a severe case of phenomena just weeks before the event. Healed and in good health, Troy and his wife were excited to be able to attend. Cindy is a professional home decorator and retail shop owner of "Accessorize it" which boost with their professional catering business making rustic chuckwagon cooking feel charmingly elegant. Adding the chuck wagon to the catering business five years ago, the two started competing last year at the Pigeon Forge Saddle Up event. Their hone professional cooking proved worthy winning "Best in Meat category" and second in desserts at that first competition. Since then, Troy expressed a sincere bonding between the many teams who compete and friendships they have made. Additionally, they have started marketing their own Cowboy Coffee, Steak and BBQ Rubs, Sauces, Chili Mix and Salsa available through their web page at Skillet and Spurs.
Rambling Rose, is owned by Lexie Dean and his wife Kathy who are well seasoned competitors from Greenville, North Carolina. Lexie is the 2013 President of the American Chuck Wagon Associations Southest Chapter. Dressed in his fashionable top hat with a feather, Lexie takes the rugged look of the camp cook on the cattle drive. His wagon, is a family heirloom first used as a farm wagon built by Fish Brothers Wagon Company of Racine, Wisconsin in 1868. Fish brothers bought out Daniel Bull interest in the former Fish and Bull business, changing the name to FISH Brothers just two years before Lexie's wagon was built. He added the additional items to convert the wagon into a functional chuckwagon having to complete rebuild the wagon box. As Whiskey was kept on Chuckwagon's during the trail drives, wagon judges inspect each wagon for ever detail including having a jug of whiskey. When the judge was not able to locate the jug, Lexie pointed out if they had inspected the water barrel yet. To the judges surprise, as he open the water barrel lid, their floating on the surface was the whiskey jug.
Not part of the competition, but sitting at the Ramblin Rose wagon was Abraham Lincoln portrayed by reenactor Warren Denny. Sincerely a prefect look alike who performs many special events and a highly knowledgeable Civil War Historian. When asked about the most interesting performance he has had opportunity to portray as the President, Warren replied, laying in the coffin at the morning of Lincoln's death. As crowds of folks gathered to take pictures with the President during the Saddle-Up event, it truly was amazing to relive the past. Visit Warren's facebook page for pictures.
As the chuckwagon competition came to an end, folks moved over to the Grand Majestic Theater for the evening performances. Kent Rollins announce the winners of the competition during a short awards ceremony, with the results shown below. Performances of cowboy poetry and western music followed. As the performances concluded at the Grand Majestic, the party was just beginning as the Cowboy Dance kicked off across the parking lot, held in the ballroom at "Spirit of the Smokies Condo Lodge." Many of the Music performers also stayed at the lodge, each complimenting on the professional staff and wonderful comfort of the accommodations.
Sunday morning found many of the guest gathering for Cowboy church and breakfast. Once again, Kent Rollins was serving up some wholesome food as many tourist shared their compliments indicating how much they enjoyed watching him compete during a Food Network Television show, Chopped-Grill Masters which aired last summer on national TV. Kent was pleased autographing his cookbook to a crowd of happy attendees. Cookbooks are available at Kent Rollins - Red River Ranch web site http://kentrollins.com/
Richard Holmes indicated, "This turned out to be one of the best Saddle-Up events to date." Holmes already working on next years event is looking into a larger area with an indoor arena to possible host future gatherings.
Brandon Barnes with Pigeon Forge Special Events said, "We prepared over and above for this years event, but I am still amazed we had more visitors than expected."
Special Event Manager for Pigeon Forge, Butch Helton said, "When planners first conceived Saddle Up, we were looking to start a new event, replacing some of the older ones during the slower winter tourist season. We knew this side of the Mississippi, there was not many programs like this. Saddle Up has grown into one of our most popular events which attracted about 7,500 visitors last year. I know those numbers were larger this year."
For more information of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, visit My Pigeon Forge.
|Sourdough Slim, Don Dane, Chris Isaacs and Dave Stamey at Saddle Up 2013|
Saddle Up's Buckaroo Roundup, February 23, Pigeon Forge, TNMEAT: 1st Still Hangin’, 2nd Grumpy’s Grub, 3rd Skillets and Spurs
BEANS: 1st (tie) Ramblin’ Rose and Double X, 3rd Greenhorn Cattle Co.
BREAD: 1st Grumpy’s Grub, 2nd Skillets and Spurs, 3rd Double X
POTATOES: 1st Ramblin’ Rose, 2nd Double X, 3rd Rockin’ R
DESSERT: 1st Ramblin’ Rose, 2nd Double X, 3rd Grumpy’s Grub
WAGON: 1st Still Hangin’, 2nd Ramblin’ Rose, 3rd Skillets and Spurs
CORNBREAD: 1st Ramblin' Rose, 2nd Double X, 3rd Still Hangin'
OVERALL: 1st Ramblin’ Rose, 2nd Still Hangin’
There were 7 wagons competing. The wagon judges were Roger Edison and Rem Mosimann.
Congratulation to all of the crews for a great competition. Cowboys and Chuckwagon Cooking would also like to thank Don Dune for the use of some of his pictures and the hospitality of Pigeon Forge and their City Management who put on a great show.
|Ramblin Rose Chuckwagon|
|serving lines with cast iron dutch ovens|
|Visit From Honest Abe judging who really is the best chuck wagon cook|
|Mitch Morgan with Still Hangin Chuckwagon from Lebanon, Missouri know's how to make damn good coffee|
|Wash station on the chuckwagon so the cowboys can clean up|
|Grumpy's Grub Chuckwagon|
|Greenhorn Cattle Company Chuckwagon|
|Double X Camp longhorn skull displayed|
|Still Hangin' Chuckwagon manufactured by Brown Manufacturing Company, Zanesville, Ohio|