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Howdy-Roo Cook-offs Get Fired Up This Weekend

Members of the Marble Falls Area Volunteer Fire Department join the 47th annual Howdy Roo committee in inviting everyone to the chili cook-off and barbecue May 5 at Johnson Park, 230 Avenue J South. Pictured are Vicki Campbell (front row, left), Bobby Powell, Carrie Kinnison (sitting), Ruby Ross, Johnny Campbell, Michael Phillips, and Mattie (the dog); Thomas Jacobs (back row, left), Josh Klingenburg, Doc Kinnison, Chuck Dear, and Craig Schlicke. Courtesy photo

MARBLE FALLS — The Great Pepper of the 47th annual Howdy-Roo summed up the weekend of grilling, cooking, judging, socializing, and shopping in a few sentences.

“I like getting together and having a good party,” said Great Pepper Craig Schlicke, who was elected to serve in that honored position by the Howdy-Roo committee. “It’s a time to get together with all your friends and enjoy the weekend. It’s a great time to walk around and see everybody.”

Many of those friends will settle in at Johnson Park, 230 Avenue J South, in their RVs, where they’ll go over their recipes, rubs, spices, and other ingredients to give them an edge with the judges when the Chili Appreciation Society International competition starts Saturday, May 5. It is organized by the Highland Lakes Pod of CASI.

Judging is at 10:30 a.m. for beans, noon for chicken, 1:30 p.m. for ribs, 2-3:30 p.m. for chili, and 3 p.m. for brisket. The entry fee to grill meat is $125, whether the individual cooks one, two, or all three meats. The cost to enter the chili cook-off is $35, and the entry fee for the beans category is $10.

Howdy-Roo is so much more than bragging rights, though that’s an important part of the friendly competition.

The top five finishers in the local event automatically qualify for the Original Terlingua International Championship Chili Cook-off on Nov. 1-3 to face the best of the best chili makers from around the world.

Not to be outdone by the chili cooks, master barbecuers have the opportunity to earn points in the Lonestar Barbecue Society event during Howdy-Roo.

To entice more people to compete, Howdy-Roo board members increased the percentage of the prize pot. First place receives 50 percent, while second gets 30 percent and third 20 percent. A total of 27 prizes, including director’s chairs and trophies, will be awarded to winners in all categories.

Howdy-Roo also doubles as a fundraiser each year, donating proceeds to The Helping Center of Marble Falls food pantry, the Marble Falls Area Volunteer Fire Department, and Marble Falls Boy Scout Troop 284.

On Sunday is the Backbone Creek chili cook-off, also at Johnson Park. The entry fee is $20. Judging is at 12:30 p.m. The first-place winner automatically qualifies for Terlingua. This cook-off also benefits the three above nonprofits.

The second event gets more cooks in the kitchen and, hopefully, more tickets to Terlingua, Schlicke said.

“We’re trying to get more points to go to Terlingua,” he said. “It’s hard to bring a motorhome for a one-day cook-off. With two days, you have more of a chance to get points.”

Before points and trophies can be awarded, Schlicke said the event needs one more important ingredient: judges. Those interested in judging can contact Howdy-Roo board member Carrie Kinnison at or Schlicke at (512) 507-9089 for more information.

Along with celebrating the bowls of red and plates of barbecue, Schlicke said he and other cooks are trying to recruit more people into the world of chili and barbecue competitions. They are particularly interested in getting young people cooking.

“We’ve got to try to get them going,” he said of the younger people. “We’ve got to get them involved.”

It didn’t take Schlicke long to say what he loved most about Howdy-Roo, a Marble Falls tradition that ushers in the month of May.

“I love everything,” he said. “I love bringing the enjoyment to people. I love seeing people come here from all over the state. People love Marble Falls and that park.”

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