Stokin’ the fire

Licking one’s fingers became commonplace as throngs of people grabbed thick, sauce–covered ribs during Sloss Furnace’s Stokin’ the Fire barbecue festival Aug. 22.

James Jones of Helena devoted three days to Stokin’ the Fire. His passion for barbecue started out as a hobby 20 years ago.

“I really just gave into pressure … pressure from lots of family and friends saying I needed to come out and compete,” Jones said.

James and family showed up Thursday around 11:30 a.m. to begin constructing the Rib Cage shack. James began cooking Friday and through the night Saturday. The team attracted a lot of attention Saturday afternoon with their wooden site, complete with antique family photographs and jars of pickled everything.

James’ sister-in-law Terry contributed the pickled sides. Along with their ribs and Boston butt, anyone who stopped by Rib Cage could also snack on homemade pickles, pickled okra and pickled peppers. James’ wife Valerie and his brother Syd also pitched in.

The Rib Cage team placed sixth overall in the People’s Choice Competition.

“It’s the truth; the easiest way to people’s hearts is through their stomachs,” James said. “Besides, it’s a lot of fun — we get to met a lot of people and see a lot of old friends.”

Many of the teams set up at Sloss Saturday were comprised of old friends.

Gabriel Wren and his barbecuing buddies became friends in middle school. Now, they all get together every other weekend or so to cook.

“It’s a great excuse to stay out all night with friends and eat a lot of great food,” team member David Elliot said.

The Unwired Wizards all hail from North Shelby. This group of four-time competitors all work together at AT&T Mobility and enjoy getting each year to put their food to the test.

“We just enjoy coming out here and cooking together,” said Garry Bowling. “We all work hard to put out some really good food, but we enjoy doing it.”

Team member J.D. Harris brought out his entire family — wife, Monica and kids, Parker and Kaylee.

“We love sharin’ it with people,” J.D. said.

Monica agreed feeding all of the people made the event fun.

“People give you feedback — what they like and what they don’t like,” Monica said. “We really enjoy it.”

Wallace Taylor said they served more than 100 pounds of food — 18 racks of ribs and 60 pounds of chicken.

Eighty-four teams in total vied for the title of best barbecue team. Shelby County teams included Upper Deck Tailgating from Alabaster, Southern Jesters from Wilsonville, JoDaddy and Big A’s Finest from Helena, Hogs and Hank and Hale’s Hogs from Chelsea and Butt Rubbers from Alabaster.