UPDATE: 2013 U.S. Bank Balloons, Tunes & BBQ Hot Air Balloon Race Winners and BBQ Cook-off Winners Announced in a press release.

The 2013 U.S. Bank Balloons, Tunes & BBQ Festival took place Thursday, September 5th – Sunday September 8th. As part of the festival hot air balloonists from all over the country converged on Bowling Green to compete for $10,000 in prize money. Hot air balloon competitive events were held throughout the weekend, testing the skill set of some of the sport's best pilots. Competitive events kicked off with a Saturday morning fly-in followed by the crowd favorite Hare and Hound competitive lift off Saturday afternoon, and finishing with the final fly-in event Sunday morning.

Awards were given Sunday morning to overall event winners representing five different states:

1st Place: Matthew McClinton (Prospect, KY)

2nd Place: Chase Donner (Atlanta, GA)

3rd Place: Wil LaPointe (Collinsville, OK)

4th Place: Jerry Copas (Sellersburg, IN)

5th Place: Harold Cliver (Lewisville, TX)

  As well for the first time in years, the Balloons, Tunes & BBQ Festival conducted a BBQ Cook Off sponsored by Macy’s. Gates opened on Saturday at noon and festival-goers were able to get up close immediately with the event’s BBQ Cook-off. Judges results of each category wrapped up around 4:30 p.m. BBQ cookers were competing for prize money and bragging rights in the categories of chicken, ribs, and pulled pork. The crowd was also able to enjoy free samples from each competitor. 

Winners for each category included:

Grand Champion: Backyard BBQ

Reserve Champion: Grease Fire Grill

Chicken:  1st Grease Fire Grill

2nd Backyard BBQ

3rd White Wolf Smokers 

Ribs: 1st Uncle Pappy’s Bar-B-Q

2nd Grease Fire Grill

3rd Backyard BBQ

Pulled Pork: 1st Rockin Rick’s BBQ

2nd Backyard BBQ

3rd Uncle Pappy’s Bar-B-Q

Peoples choice Award: (Tie) Pork Star BBQ and White Wolf Smokers

Grilling barbecue has been a hobby for Floyd Hawks for more than 20 years, so he was excited the 23rd annual U.S. Bank Balloons, Tunes & BBQ included a barbecue cook-off this year.

“That’s what prompted us to come out this time, is because they brought it back,” the Wingfield man said of the barbecue competition. “I think it adds a lot to it.”

In addition to Saturday’s cook-off, the four-day festival, which is a fundraiser for United Way of Southern Kentucky, featured music performances, a carnival midway and hot air balloon rides and competitions. 

The cook-off was a family event for Hawks, who worked with a group of family members to create recipes for chicken, pulled pork and ribs.

“We’re into more of the Carolina style,” he said. “We’re just stepping out to see if we can change a taste for people. We think different is good.”

Ron Wolf of Bowling Green also competed in the barbecue cook-off with his team, the White Wolf Smokers.

“It’s relaxing to me to get out and try different stuff on the grill and (see) the reaction of people when you get done feeding them,” he said.

His son Billy Wolf created his own barbecue team, the Pork Commanders, along with his brother-in-law Patrick Hittson. The Bowling Green pair have competed in several competitions in the area during the last few years. 

“It’s fun, but a lot of work,” Billy Wolf said.

It can be stressful to grill under pressure during cook-offs.

“You just have to adapt and work on the fly,” Hittson said.

Though the pair enjoy cooking barbecue, so far it remains just a hobby for them.

“It’s fun just to give out the food and watch people’s faces when they take the first bite,” Billy Wolf said. “Plus, it gives us a lot of family time together.”

Linda McCawley of Rockfield brought her six grandchildren to Balloons, Tunes & BBQ. She liked that the event had activities for all ages and especially enjoyed tasting the barbecue.

“It’s really neat,” she said of the cook-off. “I like it. There’s a lot of good ones there.” 

Scott and Elsa Peters of Bowling Green came to the event with their children to spend time as a family on the midway and watch the balloons take off. 

“When you see it from the road, it seems like there’s a lot here,” Scott Peters said. 

Their daughter Tori Peters, 11, had fun on the rides. 

“There’s something for everyone,” she said.

— Laurel Wilson covers faith and general assignments. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/FaithinBG or visit bgdailynews.com.

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