Barbecue is an art to some. Those select few are constantly looking for a way to perfect their sauce, add that perfect amount of tang or zest, and to find new ways to unlock flavor. This year the Wadena Lions Club hosted the 10th annual Pig-N-Wing Challenge at the Wadena County Fairgrounds. Attendees and competitors were greeted with a beautiful day and smoky rich aroma of barbecue ribs and wings. Those in attendance also had the chance to take in a car show while eating their fill of freshly cut french fries and other snacks served by the Lions.
Grills, big and small encapsulated the fairgrounds. Ribs and wings sizzled in unison while competitors prepared their signature sauces and meat. Under a small tent, the Wadena Lions were cooking up fries and selling their own brand of barbecue. Main organizer, Ryan Anderson, kept a watchful eye on the myriad of activities taking place. He has the tough job of coordinating the days events, which also involves lining up competitors from all over the region. The food is his favorite part of the job. “It's very cool to sample all the different ribs and wings, everyone puts their own touch on things,” said Anderson.
Betty Nelson has been participating in competition barbecue for six years. She and her nieces were grilling up good eats in an over-sized grill emblazoned with their team name, B & B Nelson. It was her first time attending the Pig-N-Wing Challenge. “I just always loved to cook, you take something that had nothing and make it amazing,” said Nelson. The long time griller utilizes a special barbecue sauce, made to order.
Competitors come from all over. Chad Urness made his way to Wadena from Horace, ND. This was his first time competing at this event and he was busy cooking on a grill constructed in Georgia. He was cooking St. Louis ribs and chicken wings. Urness explained that he doesn't have a signature sauce, he just uses store bought products. “My Grandpa raised me and he did a lot of barbecuing, I just kept doing it,” said Urness.
Melissa and Lindsey Raddatz had a definite system at their tent. Each person had a job, The meat, sauce, and everything was done in a calculated way. This was their third time attending the Pig-N-Wing Challenge. They got into competition barbecue after attending several events to sample food before striking out on their own. The duo praised the event as an opportunity to have a little fun in addition to enjoying good food. On the wings they were using a special blackberry barbecue sauce, a flavor that required three recipes to get just right.
“It's really finding the combination of flavors people like, both judges and the public,” said Raddatz.
As the sun set, dozens were in attendance waiting for the judges results. Urness took home first place for his wings, a big surprise for the North Dakota griller. He took to the stage for his award and also won second place for his ribs. Smoke Addiction with lead cooks, Melissa and Lindsey Raddatz, took home first place in ribs along with people choice in ribs. The ecstatic cooks grilled up barbecue loved by judges and spectators alike.