ALAMOSA — Early Iron Festival will not be the last of Alamosa’s summer festivities this year.
Following Early Iron this year will be the first of what is hoped to become an annual event, the San Luis Valley Beat the Heat Brews, Barbecue & Chili Challenge, an official Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) sanctioned event scheduled for Friday through Sunday, September 6-8.
Randy Wright, executive director of the Alamosa County Economic Development Corporation and Alamosa County Chamber of Commerce, told the Alamosa city council Wednesday night this type of event could draw hundreds of people this year and thousands in the future as the event grows.
Grand Junction holds a similar event, and their barbecue challenge drew 40,000 this year, Wright said. The Grand Junction event is in its fifth year.
“We are hoping for 500 this year, which would be wonderful,” Wright said, “but we don’t know. It could be 1,000, 2,000, 3,000. We have no idea. It is a huge growing event around the nation.”
He explained that the participating cooks pull into town on Thursday with their RVs and tents, and on Friday they participate in a pork butt People’s Choice competition with residents and visitors paying a small fee to taste the meat and select their favorites.
Cookers will then compete in KCBS competitions including chicken, pork ribs, pork (Boston Butt) and beef brisket. Judging will begin at noon on Saturday, and Alamosa Mayor Kathy Rogers will be one of the judges.
Wright said event attendees can buy tickets to eat the meat that is left after the judging, and the chamber of commerce and cooks will split the proceeds from ticket sales.
The event also includes music, beer and vendors all day on Saturday, Wright explained.
He said generally KCBS events conclude on Saturday, but Alamosa is going to try to keep cookers an extra day by offering a trip on the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad on Sunday to the concert featuring the Flying W Wranglers at Fir. The railroad is working with the chamber to promote this event, Wright said.
Wright told the city council he was not asking for money this week but would probably be seeking cash in the amount of $5,000-10,000 and in-kind contributions such as permit and fee waivers from the city later on. The chamber is seeking sponsors at varying cash levels as well as in-kind contributions, such as portable toilets and trash containers.
Wright estimated the budget for this event would be under $30,000, and a portion of the funding would come from teams participating in the barbecue challenge. If the event drew 30 teams, for example, at $250 per entry fee, that would total $7,500.
Some teams have already signed up, Wright said. He said the promoter for this event is highly recognized and lends a great deal of credibility to the event.
“We have got the potential to have a really big event here over the course of the next few years.” Wright said.
Mayor Rogers said this is not in the city’s budget but the council and staff would look at what they could do.
“This is a big event in other places,” she said. “It does draw a lot of people.”
“Just the exposure itself is very meaningful to the City of Alamosa,” added Councilman Josef Lucero. “I think this is an excellent opportunity to put us on the map.”
He said Alamosa’s rodeo grew in much the same way and is now nearly self sufficient and very popular.
Wright said that was a good analogy. He said the chamber has a three-year plan for the barbecue event to be self sufficient as well.
“We would like to make money for the chamber of commerce and put money back into the event to make the event grow,” he said.