May 17—Hundreds were on hand at Pioneer Park on Saturday for the fourth annual Santa Maria BBQ Festival, enjoying meat, music, beer and games.
The event returned to Santa Maria after a two-year COVID hiatus, and featured both professional and amateur cooking competitions dedicated to the local tradition. Vendors like Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. offered food and drinks to the attendees, while music played from DJ Pete Ruiz and The Fossils.
Professional pitmasters competed for the chance to win branding iron trophies in five categories: Best Chicken, Best Tri-Tip, Best Ribs, Best Sweet Breads and Best Overall. The Santa Maria Tri Tip Co. won the prize for sweet breads, while Whiskey Bent BBQ, out of Orcutt, swept the other four categories.
"We keep it as traditional as possible, and we have a competitive spirit," said Ray Williams, one of three pitmasters for Whiskey Bent. "We have deep roots from the area and have been cooking Santa Maria-style our entire lives."
Besides the professionals, an amateur competition for Best Backyard Cook was held where 10 teams competed. First prize went to the Arellano brothers, and second prize went to Little Bent BBQ, made up of Williams' son Adam, daughter Anabelle and nephew Nathan.
"We are really proud," Williams said. "They cook with us year-round as well. They are always by our side learning and doing what we ask of them."
The annual event is the brainchild of Jaime Flores, a local insurance agent and events organizer who also runs the Santa Maria Beerfest. Flores, a Noontime Kiwanis member, uses proceeds for the event for the Kiwanis Back to School shopping event for local children.
"Jaime Flores is the one who started the whole contest. The amount of work he and the volunteers put in is impressive," Williams said. "It's such a cool event that highlights Santa Maria-style barbecue. There's no other event like it, and we appreciate all the great work Flores and the volunteers do."