“It’s the largest cook-off east of the Mississippi, at least in the Southeast,” said Tom Shinall, director of marketing for the Booth Western Art Museum, which will present the Southeastern Cowboy Gathering March 6 to 8. “So it’s really neat, because you get out there on the festival grounds and you see eight chuck wagons set up with their crews, cooking and preparing just like it was if they were on 30,000 acres out in the Midwest in the Plains going across a cattle drive. They’re set up the exact same way they would have been then.”
After the dishes are turned into the judges at noon March 8, each crew will serve food to people who have purchased one of their 50 tickets for $15 until 1 p.m. With the offering presenting the sights, sounds and tastes of cooking during a cattle drive, Shinall said it is one of the Southeastern Cowboy Gathering’s most popular components.
“The event itself is designed to educate the public about the importance of what the chuck wagon was to the cowboys in those 1800s cattle drives,” Shinall said. “Chuck wagons, that’s where the food was prepared and ... [we believe] our Chuck Wagon Cook-off should be as authentic to that period as possible. The members of each crew will interact with the public [and] they’ll be dressed in the period attire because they don’t want to sacrifice what it was like in the 1800s on a cattle drive. So preparing the food, setting up their camp and their rig and appearance-wise, the way they come across, they are portraying what it was like on those cattle drives of the 1800s through this Chuck Wagon Cook-off.
“The museum provides each team with a box of food and they will get that during a cooks’ meeting. Each team will receive the exact same ingredients. They’re going to have a meat, beans, cooking oil, flour, sugar, fruit, potatoes and onions. They are then responsible for bringing all other ingredients that they’ll need to prepare the dishes but it should be limited to those that were reasonably available during the cattle drive era.”
In addition to the Chuck Wagon Cook-off, the three-day Southeastern Cowboy Gathering will feature numerous activities that are designed to highlight the West. The event’s programs — such as a lecture and workshop conducted by featured artist Martin Grelle, a performance by featured entertainers Don Edwards and Waddie Mitchell, Western concerts, cowboy poetry, Writing Through Art Literary Contest finals, cowboy church and children’s activities — are going to be held inside and on the grounds of the Booth museum, 501 Museum Drive in Cartersville, and the nearby Grand Theatre, 7 N. Wall St.
Based on the attendance of previous events, the Southeastern Cowboy Gathering is expected to draw at least 2,500 people to downtown Cartersville from March 6 to 8.
“It really is similar to our [Southeastern Cowboy Festival & Symposium] we do in the fall,” Booth Western Art Museum Executive Director Seth Hopkins said. “Both of those events are meant to try to bring to the public here in the South and the East a little slice of Western culture and living history. [We also want] to bring the artwork in the museum alive a little bit for them, so they can connect what they see in the artwork — paintings and sculpture — in the museum galleries with the real thing. So having the Chuck Wagon Cook-off and cowboy poetry and the music and entertainment that we have throughout the weekend, that’s our overall goal.
“... [This year] we’re stepping up the bar a little bit on the entertainment that we’re going to have. Traditionally, we’ve done music contests. We’ve had a fiddle contest and a mandolin contest and those kinds of things. Those had kind of run their course. So we had decided to bring in professional entertainers and just put on a really nice full afternoon of entertainment at the museum after the chuck wagon luncheon on Saturday.”
For a complete schedule of the Southeastern Cowboy Gathering and event fees, call 770-387-1300 or visit www.boothmuseum.org.