Rodeo and ribs to take over Williams

Get ready for a jam-packed weekend of fun June 15-16 with Cowpunchers Rodeo and Northern Arizona Barbecue Festival

Santia Rodriguez and Mark Konkel are this year’s Northern Arizona Barbecue Festival Special Olympics King and Queen. Photo/Jan Shirley

Santia Rodriguez and Mark Konkel are this year’s Northern Arizona Barbecue Festival Special Olympics King and Queen. Photo/Jan Shirley

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Two of Williams' most anticipated annual events are joining forces this year, promising to give you an unforgettable weekend of barbecue, rodeo and fun.

The third annual Northern Arizona Barbecue Festival (NAZBBQ) and the 34th annual Cowpuncher's Reunion Rodeo will be offering a unique opportunity for fun-seekers to get their fill this Friday and Saturday.

Professional barbecue teams from Las Vegas, Phoenix, California, New Mexico, and around the country will converge on Williams Friday to smoke brisket, ribs, chicken and pork. The contest is Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) sanctioned and teams will earn points in this State Championship Event with over $10,000 in prize money.

The official kickoff to the festival is at 6 p.m. where over 30 teams are expected to participate.

"We are adding something. On Friday night there will Backyard Burger contest," organizer Chuck Vaughn said. "Teams will be grilling up burgers for the public to taste and judge."

Admission to the event is free to the public. When the gates open, smoke will fill the air and team cooking will be in full swing. In some cases, teams will smoke beef brisket for up to 17 hours. Visit the beer garden featuring local and national favorites and music on the main stage with Cottonwood based band, Aces and Eights from 7-10 p.m. Barbecue dinners will be sold by some of the competitors beginning at 6 p.m. The Special Olympics' King and Queen, Mark Konkel and Santia Rodriguez, will also be crowned Friday night during the festivities. The two were selected for their community service and years of dedication to the Special Olympics.

"They are from the Williams area, one guy has been in the Special Olympics for about 30 years and the girl has been in it since she was eight, now she's about 16 I think, Vaughn said. "That's pretty cool. We are going to have a coronation for them on Friday night."

On June 16, the gates open at 10 a.m. At 12:30 p.m. a few lucky visitors will be asked to help judge a "Rib Burn" competition between some of the teams. Each judge pulled from the audience will be asked to donate $20 to participate, and the prize money from this event will then be split in two, with half going to the winner and half to charity. Tickets can be purchased for tastes of the barbecue prepared by the professionals and supporting Special Olympics.

Enjoy more music from the main stage with Kerry-Lynn performing at 11 a.m. and The Knockabouts at 2 p.m. while the contest is in full swing. At 4 p.m. the winners will be announced and handcrafted trophies, made by Colors of the West owner Mike Bessler, along with prize money will be awarded. Local band The Sweet Lemon will take the stage at 6:30 p.m. to close out the evening's activities. Proceeds from The Sweet Lemon's performance will benefit the food bank. The beer garden will be open all day featuring beers from the area or try a nice local Arizona wine.

"Special Olympics will be running the kids zone. We are trying to make it more family friendly, so we will have a bounce house, the playground," Vaughn said. "We are trying to get a facepainter and more arts and craft activities for the kids."

For more information visit www.nazbbq.com, www.experiencewilliams.com or contact the Williams-Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce at (928) 635-0273.

Cowpunchers Rodeo

Meanwhile, over at the Williams Rodeo Grounds, the 34th annual Cowpunchers Reunion Rodeo will be in full swing Friday though Sunday. Spectators are welcome to watch cowboys and cowgirls of all ages compete daily in both individual and team competitions. Gates open daily at 1 p.m.

It's not a rodeo event with fancy bull riding or things like that. It's just a showcase of ordinary skills that extraordinary cowpunchers use every day out on the range. Participants in the rodeo not only demonstrate their superb skill in the arena, but also use that skill on a daily basis.

Competitions include wild horse racing, wild cow milking, calf roping, bronc riding, ribbon roping, steer riding for children and team roping events. Team roping events include all girl, 12 and under, 16 and under mix, team tying. In order to compete in the reunion rodeo, participants have to work on a ranch or be somehow involved in the cattle industry.

Besides the rodeo itself, there will be vendors, food and entertainment throughout the weekend. Dances will be held 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday in the barn. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Their Calcutta auction has become quite popular according to organizer Trina Runston, with some of the proceeds split between the Cowpuncher's Crisis Fund and the Arizona Cowpuncher's Scholarship Association.

The Cowpuncher's Crisis Fund is a non-profit formed to raise funds to assist families of Arizona's working cowboys during a crisis situation primarily caused by accident or illness.

Tickets will be available at the Williams-Forest Service Visitor Center as well as at the gate the day of performance. The rodeo starts at 1 p.m. daily.

For more information on the reunion rodeo, call Runston at (928) 853-6495.

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