File photo Ribs being pulled off the smoker at the Cache Food Pantry on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.

WELLSVILLE-This Saturday among all the valley’s many Pioneer Day Celebrations the Cache Food Pantry and the American West Heritage Center (AWHC) are joining forces to hold a pellet smoker competition.

Matt Whitaker the executive director of the Cache Food Pantry pulls fresh ribs from the smoker on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.

This event is a fund raiser for the two organizations and with the growing popularity of the back yard cooker they hope people will take advantage of it. the public is welcome to come any visit with the teams any time. but if they want to be part of the People’s Choice Award tasting will begin at 230.  Prizes will be awarded at 5 p.m.

The Smokeout will be held at the AWHC located at 4025 S. hwy 89-91during their Pioneer Day celebration.

This first annual Cache Smokeout attracted 28 teams that will pitt their meat smoking skills against each other.

“This is the first amateur cookout like this in Northern Utah,” said Matt Whitaker, organizer of the event and the executive director of the Cache Food Pantry. “We have two different sets of judges there are certified judges and for fun we have a assembled a VIP panel.”

There are about 20 VIP judges and they are business, non-profit and government officials. They will select a winner for a $5,000  Gozney pizza oven.

“I’m extremely excited about this event,” Whitaker who is an avid smoker said. “I’ve been thinking about it for couple of years as a fundraising opportunity for the pantry.”

Matt Whitaker and Jake Netzley from the Cache Food Pantry prepare freshly cooked ribs to deliver to some of their donors on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.

The People’s Choice winner will be awarded a $1,000 Traeger smoker. He hopes this is popular enough to attract people around region.

Whitaker made a connection with a guy who has software for cooking competitions, and he has agreed to help run the event. JBS Swift has agreed to supply the meat. Each team will smoke ribs and chicken thighs.

“We have $8,000 in prize money. The Grand Champion will win $2,000 and the Reserve Champion will take home $1,200,” he said. “We have other cash prizes; second place gets $750, third place gets $500, and fourth place gets $150.”

Whitaker smokes several racks of ribs each week and gives them to generous donors of the food pantry. He attended the Kansas City Barbeque Society World Invitational held at Fire Lake Arena in Shawnee, OK. And wanted to bring that excitement to Cache Valley.

If someone were to win both the chicken thigh and the ribs competition, they could walk away with $2,000.

Two businesses stepped up as anchor sponsors: Wilson Ford and the BBQ Pitstop.

“We also have two Gold level sponsor’s: Camp Chef and Kimerbell Designs and a Silver level sponsor Fox Pest Control,” he said. “The monies we receive from the sponsors will provide for the prize money and awards.”

BBQ Pit Stop Manager Jack Carlisle said backyard smokers are popular and the pellet stove has made it so people can smoke stuff on their patio.

The American West Heritage Center is planning an authentic experience for visitors on Pioneer Day Satuday.

Utah pellet smoker makers Camp Chef made in Cache Valley and Traeger made in Salt Lake have made strides in replacing gas grills that were popular for years with pellet smokers.

With the popularity of backyard pellet stove cooking, Whitaker hopes the Cache Smokeout will catch fire and attract people who smoke from across the region.

While the Smokeout is going on, the AWHC will have a living history interpreters dressed in period garb teaching the history of Cache Valley from the early settlers in 1820 to 1920. The interpreters will be dressed in period clothing to add to the experience.

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