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Rockingham Dragway heats up for BBQ’s first Smoke at the Rock Festival

By Lauren Allen
Around the Town Editor

Smoke at the Rock, NC State BBQ Festival took over the Rockingham Drag way, March 24-25 as Gov.

Mike Easley proclaimed Smoke at the Rock as the official 2006 NC State BBQ Championship.

Friday’s festivities

The festivities began Friday at 4 p.m. with free kiddie rides, family games, chicken barbeque sampling for People’s Choice and an end of the night fireworks display put on by the Richmond County Daily Journal

Festival goers also got the chance to meet the nation’s best competition barbeque teams, including the world-famous Texas Rib Rangers and Smokin’ Triggers, the defending world champions. 

Beauty pageants

Saturday’s events began bright and early as the gates to the Rockingham Drag way opened at 10 a.m.

The Smoke at the Rock Beauty Pageant attracted a large crowd as five groups of teens, toddlers and babies competed to take home a Smoke at the Rock title. 

Meet the winners

Victoria Smith took home the 1st place prize for Miss Smoke at the Rock, along with a $500 cash scholarship. 

Sara Jade Efird was the 1st runner up, followed by Anna McLaurin. 

A total of 12 girls competed in the Miss Smoke at the Rock section beauty pageant.

Miss Teen North Carolina, Melissa Lingafelt; Miss North Carolina America, Brook McLaurin; and Miss North Carolina USA, Samantha Holvey all made appearances and helped with the beauty pageant.

Free kiddie rides continued all day Saturday along with a three-hour long People’s Choice competition featuring Smithfield Meats pork butts. 

Festival goers were given barbeque samples from over 60 competing teams and a chance to vote for their favorite.

Where they’re from

Barbeque teams came to Rockingham from all over the U.S. including, Alabama, Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland, Illinois, Tennessee, New York, Arkansas, California and South Carolina. 

However, the majority of the competitors were from North Carolina. 

Meet Tobey

Tobey Ussery, a local Rockinghamer, was a first time competitor at the Smoke at the Rock.

“I’ve been cooking barbeque for family and private parties for 16 years, but this is my first competition,” Ussery explained.

Ussery’s secret to mouth watering barbeque?  He uses red oak in a home-designed cooker to smoke the vinegar based barbeque.

Meet Mike

Mike Wozniak, head cook for Bar-B-Quau, an Illinois-based barbeque competition team, is no stranger to the world of barbeque and the many competitions that surround the food.

Mike and his team have been barbecuing for six years and have won 13 state grand championships and one world championship. 

Bar-B-Quau is also the defending grand champion of the Best of the Best Invitational.

Fighting for first

The 60-plus teams were competing for 10 different awards in various categories, including the Richmond County Daily Journal grand champion, the Longleaf Community Bank Reserve grand champion, the Richmond County Governor’s cup, which is awarded to the highest scoring North Carolina-based team, and the Perdue Farms Best Chicken champion, along with six other awards.

Byron Chism, with, a Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. based team, was awarded the Richmond County Daily Journal grand champion.  Along with his title, Chism took home $3,500 and an 8-foot trophy. 

Best Ribs

But that wasn’t the only title they took home that day.  Chism and his team also won first place in the Griffin Automotive Group Best Ribs category, making their total winnings $4,500.

The team placed third for best chicken and fourth for best pork. 

Not bad for two days of barbequing.

Chism and his team are no strangers to winning, though.  They won the Alabama Sate Championship in Mobile on March 11, 2006, making their Smoke at the Rock win their second title of the year. was also heading to Hammond, La. at the end of the Smoke at the Rock competition to put their barbeque to the test once again and strive for a third title to add to their impressive record thus far. 

More Festivities

Other attractions included a pie eating contest sponsored by Pee Dee Electric, a rib eating contest sponsored by Griffin Automotive and plenty of live music.

Several bands made their way to the main stage, including Willow Creek, Ponder Blue, Dixie Ambush and Simplicity. 

“Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire,”a drag racing exhibition, started around 9:30 p.m.

Saturday night and featured Pepi Urban’s 200 mph Simple Xtreme Jet Powered Freightliner. 

Hundreds gathered in the bleachers to watch Pepi Urban, as well as get a taste of some street bike racing and dune buggy racing.

Waiting For Next Year

A day of beauty pageants, rides, barbeque, eating contests, live music and racing was ended with another firework display at 10 p.m.

Plans for another Smoke at the Rock BBQ Festival are underway for 2007, due to the major success of the first annual festival. 


To learn more about Smoke at the Rock, BBQ contestants, pageant contestants, judges etc. visit

Smoke at the Rock BBQ Winners

Richmond County Daily Journal grand champion -Byron Chism with  (Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.)

Richmond County Governor’s Cup -Scott Jones with Lazy Bones Barbeque (Asheville, N.C.)

Perdue Farms Best Chicken -Jerry Deese with Dees Wild BBQ (Rockingham, N.C.)

Wal-Mart Best Brisket -Steven Krauss with Regal BBQ (East Amherst, N.Y.)

Griffin Automotive Group Best Ribs -Byron Chism with (Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.)

More BBQ contest winners are posted onThe Smoke at the Rock website

Smoke at the Rock Beauty Pageant Winners

2006 Miss Smoke at the Rock -Victoria Smith

2006 Teen Miss Smoke at the Rock -Katelyn Haywood

2006 Little Miss Smoke at the Rock -Kayla Hawkins

2006 Petite Miss Smoke at the Rock -Cassidy Davis

2006 Baby Miss Smoke at the Rock -Alexus King

Forever Yours Photogenic Winner -Courtney LaRue


Free kiddie rides attract many families to the BBQ Festival.Mike Wozniak with Bar-B-Quau shows off his barbeque grill and skills.Bar-B-Quau was just one of the many competing BBQ teams.From left, Anna McLaurin and Courtney LaRue competed in the Miss Smoke at the Rock Beauty Pageant, which took place on Saturday.Cassidy Davis takes home the title for 2006 Petite Miss Smoke at the Rock.‘Simplicity’ was one of the many bands perfoming during the Smoke at the Rock festival.

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke The print edition of The Pine Needle
is published 14 times a year
during the fall and spring semesters.

Updated: Monday, April 10, 2006
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