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June 23, 2014

Barbourville Barbecue

CORBIN — Barbecue was not on the menu Friday at Thompson RV Park, where the first-ever Barbourville BBQ Cook-Off & Festival got underway Friday. Instead, 28 cooking teams from Kentucky and several states were setting up for the big day Saturday, when the cooking starts early and the judging begins at noon.

One of the local cook teams in the competition — the “Forkin’ Good” BBQ Team — hails from Barbourville. Made up of Eddie Frazier, Jeff Black, Brian Senters, Chris Vanover and Robert Dunaway, some of the team members stopped by hours before the big battle.

The event is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS), and is part of the Jim Beam Bluegrass BBQ Showdown. The number one cooking team in the country, according to point standings, is the Warren County Pork Choppers, a Kentucky team from Bowling Green. Donny Bray, his wife Tracy Bray and their dog “Stormy” made the trip to Barbourville for this week’s competition and are ready to rock.

Donny Bray explained the point standings for cook teams are similar to what they use in NASCAR racing. The entire team’s made up of eight people, all family members, but the other 6 stayed home this weekend.

“We travel just about every weekend for the competition during the season,” he added.

Friday evening at 6 p.m., cook-off organizers held a dinner for the cook teams inside a big white tent at the RV park. When asked what they wanted, the teams said, “Something light and simple, but no barbeque.” After all, they’ll be doing the real BBQ work Saturday, with the prizes from a cash purse of $8,000 being given out at 4:30 p.m.

On the menu for the dinner? The crews were served hot dogs with Mitchell’s Chili, baked beans, potato chips, cole slaw and brownies, and thoroughly enjoyed the meal.

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The soft whistle of a flute floated through the room as audience members listened in awe to tales of the Thunderbolt people. “This land that you’re now sitting on was that of Thunderbolt people,” said Thunderbolt descendant David Owens. Owens and Indian flute player Robert Mullinax stopped at the Laurel County Library Friday night to entertain with spoken legends, folk lore and tales of the bygone Thunderbolts. Audiences were captivated by stories passed down from the Thunderbolt of how things came to be. Tales about fire, pipes and Kentucky — just to name a few — were shared by Ownes over the course of an hour with Mullinax playing behind him.

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