Despite their ages, the grand champions from the July 30 BBQ Pit Row contest in Winner proved their success wasn’t a fluke during Saturday’s Fort Pierre Backyard BBQ Competition.
Brody Alexander, 13, placed second among the 49 teams and went home with a $1,000-plus prize. His buddy, Cory Ronish, 12, took fourth and received $430.
Childhood friends from Hill City, the boys started learning to smoke barbecued meats about five years ago. One of their mentors, Shane Alexander, won the 2022 Backyard BBQ competition during Fort Pierre Trader Days at Fischers Lilly Park.
“Both had exceptional briskets,” Shane, who is Brody’s father, said. “It’s kind of knowing and understanding. They know what they’re doing.”
A fundraiser for the Verendrye Museum in Fort Pierre, the cook off was a highlight of Trader Days held Friday through Sunday. The fifth annual festival included music, children’s activities, cornhole tournaments, helicopter rides, turkey races and more.
Shane Alexander, the 42-year-old owner of a water well drilling company, got into smoking meats about 10 years ago and participates in competitions about twice a year.
“You gotta know what you’re looking for,” Shane said. “It comes down to the amount of time before pulling it off.”
Ronish, the son of Chad Ronish originally from Fort Pierre and grandson of Mike Ronish of Fort Pierre, said the trick for success is time.
“Letting your food get the time to cook,” the rising seventh-grader said.
Cooking began on Friday evening and kept most chefs up all night. Brody and Ronish, however, caught some shuteye, while Shane stayed awake to check on their brisket.
Gerad Johnson, vice president of A-G-E Corp. in Fort Pierre, and his teammates also pulled an all-nighter. They cooked their brisket in a Big Green Egg, a ceramic kamado-style charcoal grill that makes very high and very low temperatures easy to maintain.
Johnson and his co-workers designed and built a $4,000 to $5,000 heavy-duty stainless steel table on wheels for the Big Green Egg, which they nicknamed Eggzilla.
“It was a COVID project,” Johnson joked. “We just like to keep things rolling and thinking outside the box.”
The Big Green Egg heats up to 800 degrees. During the company’s Christmas parties, they can grill up to 20, 18-ounce steaks at a time on the Green Egg.
Contestants paid $125 to enter the Fort Pierre Backyard BBQ Competition. Sixty percent of total entry fees were paid back in prize money with the remaining 40 percent going to the Verendrye Museum.
Prize money was awarded for top competitors after two rounds of scoring. The museum provided the brisket for the competition.
Teams and contestants picked up their brisket at the park picnic shelter at 6 p.m. on Friday. All cooking was done on-site starting on Friday. Competitors brought their grills to the park.
Contestants shared with judges a strip of brisket for appearance and eight, 1-inch pieces for tasting. Contestants’ remaining brisket was cut into cubes and served during the People’s Choice voting from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Any remaining competition brisket was served to the public after the voting.
In addition to Shane Alexander, Brody Alexander and Cory Ronish taking first, second and fourth, respectively, judges chose Tyler Van Asperen representing Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern Railroad for third place, Dusty Hepper with Bad River Ranch, fifth; a team from Morris Inc., sixth; another team from Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern Railroad, seventh; Russ Hanson representing Prairie Traders, eighth; Tim Southern and Brian Kenzy, representing S&K Smokers, ninth; and Lane Meinen representing Niederwerder Trucking, tenth.
Levy Briggs, cooking for River View RV Park in Fort Pierre, won the People’s Choice award and received $200. Second place went to Deron Wheelhouse with Wheelhouse Auto Body & Paint, $150; third, Shane Alexander, $100; and fourth, Fort Pierre Volunteer Fire Department represented by Jayce Marso and Shaun Cronin, $50.