By ABIGAIL SNOW
Moapa Valley Progress
Mesquite Gaming held its first ever CasaBlanca BBQ Fest on Friday and Saturday last week, successfully providing top notch food from three award-winning BBQ competition teams, along with entertainment and activities for the public.
Chicago BBQ Company, Texas Outlaw BBQ, and Austin’s Texas Lightning BBQ competition teams were featured at the festival. The two teams came to Mesquite after competing in the largest barbeque festival in the nation, the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cookoff, just the weekend before in Reno.
Christian Adderson, corporate sales manager at Mesquite Gaming, said the event came together nicely and the public turnout was better than expected.
“People are having a good time here and the barbeque teams work together to make sure the public has a good experience as well,” said Adderson. “They all travel the circuit of barbeque, so they become as their own family together. When they were first setting booths up there was some wind trouble and they all pitched in to help get all three of their spots set and secured.”
Nikki Haggerty and her team, Austin’s Texas Lightning BBQ, were one of the three teams participating. She said she previously worked with her father’s travelling barbeque competition team for almost 30 years and now has been running her own.
“We usually travel all over the country from Memorial Day until Labor Day each year,” said Haggerty. “Our experience in Mesquite has been positive and we plan on returning again next year if another BBQ Festival is held.”
Katie Hogan with Chicago BBQ Company was present at the Festival. She said that she was excited their team had won First Place and $10,000 just the weekend before at the ‘Best In The West Nugget Rib Cookoff’ Festival.
“We won this year and also four years ago,” said Hogan. “We have also placed a little bit lower in some cases, and won People’s Choice. There are a lot of different categories that they judge in at the Reno event.”
Hogan said she initially got started in the barbeque competition circuit through the help of her friend, Nikki Haggerty. She was looking for work and Haggerty’s father, Tom Ferguson, brought her onto their team. She has stayed with them ever since.
“This event has been really fun,” said Hogan. “First year events are always a new challenge because you never know what to expect. You don’t have an idea from the previous year on how much food to prepare and supplies to have on hand. This show has been really nice because it has kept a steady flow of people, and we have been able to accommodate everyone.”
Texas Outlaw BBQ Manager, Steve Vaughn, has been competing for 26 years. They are one of only two teams that have won First place three times at the ‘Best In The West Nugget Rib Cookoff.’ They have also competed all over the United States and parts of Canada.
“This is our first time in Mesquite and we are glad to come down and participate in this,” said Vaughn. “This is great for us and the people, and I hope it will be a yearly thing and continue for many years from now.”