FORT BLISS, Texas -Ribbons of hickory smoke poured out of the grills, the sweet smell of brisket and baby-back ribs dancing in the air. The mood was just right and the weather couldn’t be better October 12 to 15 for the Bliss Brews and Que (BBQ) festival at Freedom Crossing here.
The BBQ festival gave soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines, and civilians the opportunity to display their culinary skills in a fun and friendly environment, but it was more than just any old delicious barbeque. It was a weekend packed with music, beverages, and quality family time.
This was the first Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned event on a military installation, which made it an even more special day for our soldiers and their families.
“This is an awesome event. I am out here enjoying the sunshine with my wife and I can’t beat that,” said Chris Saindon, an El Paso native. “I wouldn’t change a thing, I am also glad I get to see a bunch of joint forces in one place; Fort Bliss did a great job coordinating this.”
Families from all around swarmed the streets of Freedom Crossing to seek out the most scrumptious morsels of the finest barbeque. The Soldiers’ Choice competition allowed service members the opportunity to vote for their favorite barbecue station.
“I have had some of the best barbecue and beer I have ever tasted, today,” said David Holsten, an El Paso native. “The music is great; it just adds to the already wonderful atmosphere. My baby girl is on her third pulled pork sandwich, so I would say she approves of this event also.”
The competition had several categories ranging from best brisket to best margarita. The Kansas City Barbeque Society brought some of their finest judges and skills to the table to separate the best from the rest.
“It’s all about the taste. The weather is great and the barbecue is delicious, this is going to be a tough event to judge,” said Vickie Grousnick, a Kansas City Barbeque Society Certified Judge. “I am making good friends and getting to share my skills with the other judges.”
Grousnick, being a certified judge, has to check the meats not only for the flavor, but for texture, smell, and appearance as well. The judges are limited to drink only water and can wipe their hands with unscented wipes only. These measures are in place to mitigate any outside factors that could alter the judge’s taste buds and judging techniques.
“The competition is going to be tough,” said Mitch Adams, an El Paso native. “I have been up and down this road sampling different kinds of meats and I must say the judges are going to have their hands full.”
The festivities didn’t cease even when the grill competition was complete and the sun started to crest over the desert horizon. The live band rocked the stage and kept the crowd entertained until the last rib was consumed and the glowing charcoal embers faded away.
“I’m so glad I accidentally walked over here,” said Spc. Pedro Tijerina, a wheeled vehicle mechanic with the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, and Special Troops Battalion. “I was just walking toward the sound of the music, and was like, ‘wow.’ The food is cheap and delicious, and for the soldiers, you can’t beat that.”