Montana BBQ Cook-Off and Fishtail Family Fun Day this weekend

Mikaela Koski
Thursday, June 21, 2018

For the 16th year, the smell of mouth-watering barbeque will overtake Absarokee’s main street as teams from around the country compete in the Montana BBQ Cook-Off this Sunday.

The officially-sanctioned event of the Kansas City Barbeque Society offers $12,000 in cash and prizes. The Grand Champion will earn bids to the American Royal and the Jack Daniels International Draw.

As of Tuesday, 26 teams were registered for the event, including 14 from the Big Sky state. Three local teams will be taking part – Montana Outlaw BBQ from Columbus, Absarokee Fire and Rescue, and Camp House, also from Absarokee.

Last year’s Grand Champion was Parrothead Smokers from South Dakota, and reserve champion was You Que’d Me All Night out of Wyoming. Both teams are set to return this year.

Rick and Ty Hamilton of Montana Outlaw BBQ are excited for the event this weekend, describing it as their only “home game.” Last year the team traveled about 17,000 miles for barbeque competitions – from Washington to Tennessee – and the competition in Absarokee stacks up against the best of them.

Ty explained that what makes the Montana BBQ Cook-Off so great is the competition and the atmosphere. The Hamiltons could list at least four teams that will be in Absarokee that finished in the nation-wide top-100 last year. They described Absarokee’s event as one of the most competitive state contests in the country.

Absarokee “is able to turn a barbeque competition into a spectator sport,” and, according to Ty, that’s pretty unique.

There will always be a special place for the Montana BBQ Cook-Off in the hearts of the Hamiltons. It is where they competed for the first time in 2005, and it is where they won their first grand champion trophy. The Absarokee competition has set a standard the Montana Outlaw BBQ crew looks for when choosing other events in which to compete.

The Hamiltons described how supportive and dedicated local crowds are to the event, and this year Montana Outlaw BBQ has decided to not only compete in Absarokee, but to also sell food as a full vendor to give more people an opportunity to have some tasty local barbeque.

Even folks very familiar with Montana Outlaw BBQ are in for a surprise – the team has been experimenting and has developed some new flavors this year to enhance the meat and keep up with the ever-changing competition.

So far this year, the Hamil-tons have competed in Brighton, Colo., and in Miles City, and there are several events on their busy schedule for the end of the summer. In Absarokee this year, Montana Outlaw BBQ is looking to improve upon last year’s 4th place overall finish at the event.

On Sunday, the public is welcome to attend the event from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. to taste some barbeque and microbrews, peruse local vendors, and listen to some great music. This year’s entertainment is provided by Daniel Kosel and The Crue, 2 GeeZerZ & HannaH, and The Wench.

While the public event takes place on Sunday, event coordinator Nick Morrison encourages those in the area to take an evening drive to Absarokee on Saturday. As smoking meats is such a lengthy, involved process, most of the cooking actually takes place Saturday night.

Those who drive through Absarokee the evening before the event will get a first-hand experience of the smoke, smells, and flavors that surface when the professionals are hard at work.

A unique souvenir commemorating the event will be available this year – a specialized grilling rub. The “Smoke ‘N Jo” rub is “a high quality spice rub” made in Montana, according to Morrison, who helped develop the flavor.

Admission is free, and complimentary shuttle parking will be available.

Morrison is expecting up to 5,000 people at the event throughout the day, leading to the potential for some tough parking situations. Members of the public are encouraged to bypass the closed portion of main street by parking at Absarokee High School and taking the free shuttle provided by members of the local VFW to the event. No pets are allowed.

As of Tuesday, the National Weather Service is calling for a mostly cloudy day on Sunday, with a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. The high will be near 72 degrees.


•7 a.m. – 7 p.m.: Absarokee Main Street closed

•10 a.m.: Judging begins

•12 p.m.: Event opens to spectators

•12 – 2 p.m.: Daniel Kosel and The Crue

•2 – 4 p.m.: 2 GeeZerZ and HannaH

•4 – 4:30 p.m.: Awards

•4 – 6 p.m.: The Wench

Visit the Montana BBQ Cook-Off website or Facebook page for more information. Contact Morrison at 690-3030 with any additional questions.


On Saturday, another fun event will be held in the southern part of the county – Fishtail Family Fun Day.

The event is a full day of fun for the entire family, featuring a pancake breakfast, kids’ activities, a parade, music, and more.

Saturday should be partly sunny with a high near 71 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. There is a 50 percent chance of showers or storms, mainly in the afternoon.


•7 – 9 a.m.: Pancake breakfast

•9 a.m.: Vendors open

•9 a.m.: Bake sale

•9 a.m. – 11 a.m.: Kids’ art activity, face painting, Beartooth Electric learning exhibit

•9 a.m. – 1 p.m.: Climbing wall in the park

•10 – 10:30 a.m.: Magic show

•11 a.m.: Parade – “Best 2-Mile parade in a 1-block town” with Chris Byers as Grand Marshal

•12 p.m.: Trash to Treasure Auction

•1 – 2 p.m.: Fishtail Fast and Furious Family Adventure Obstacle Course Race

•1 p.m.: Poo BINGO – Tickets on sale day of event

•1 – 3 p.m.: Kids’ art activity, face painting, Beartooth Electric learning exhibit

•2 p.m.: Duck Race – Can buy tickets in advance at Fishtail businesses

•2:30 p.m.: Music in the park with “Wildflower” and a picnic