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First Freedomfest A Tasty Event

DALLAS -- You wouldn't say the competition was as fiery as the grills, but the seeds of an ongoing rivalry were planted Thursday at Freedomfest's "BBQ Throwdown" contest.The competition and community dinner concluded Dallas' first Freedomfest celebrating the Fourth of July.The event featured a dog parade and dog show, games for children and adults, and discounted rates to the Dallas Aquatic Center.But Freedomfest saved the best for last when the seven barbecue competition teams turned over their best brisket and pulled pork to the judges at about 4 p.m.Then the teams eagerly awaited the five-person judging panel's feedback on what took most of them 14 or 15 hours to prepare."We've been here all night basically," said Micky Garus, the owner of American Outdoors in Dallas and lead griller/smoker for team American Smokers. "But it's fun and a good group of people. There was a lot of banter and playing back and forth between each other, but nothing malicious and that made it fun."Garus said he actually began preparing for the competition months ago when he first heard about it."Barbecuing is just a passion of mine that I do for my family and friends," Garus said. "When this competition came about and it was local, we just decided to branch out and see what we could do."Garus encouraged friends he knew with a serious barbecue hobby to join, making the contest more interesting.Dallas resident Tyler Clement might actually qualify as having an extreme barbecue hobby from the looks of his custom-made griller and smoker combination, named "Clems Meat Wagon."Surprisingly, this is Clement's first contest as well, though he has plenty of experience."My parents are full-time caterers and I've done festivals and stuff like that, but I've never actually done a competition," he said.Clement smiled when asked why he decided Freedomfest would be his first foray into competitive grilling."Because I just got done building that," Clement said, gesturing over his shoulder to his griller-smoker. "And I'm good buddies with Micky and we like to (be) rivals. It's just something fun to do."Like Garus' team, Clement pulled an all-nighter to prepare his version of pulled pork and beef brisket.In the end, the competition was fierce.According to Dallas City Manager Ron Foggin, the contest's official scorekeeper, the margin between the grand champion and the team with the lowest score was only 1.5 points."I think the judges had a fairly difficult time based on the scores that I entered," Foggin said, "so the teams did a really great job."Head judge Ray Stratton, the owner of North Dallas Bar & Grill, confirmed Foggin's suspicions."All the judges agreed that it was really hard to make a decision," he said. Clement and Garus both stood behind their creations."We got to go around and have a peek at everything and take little samples where we could sneak them," Garus said before the results were revealed. "We would come back and whisper amongst ourselves and I think we stand to fair really well."Clement, for his part, was happy with how his pulled pork turned out, but a little less pleased with the brisket."The texture of the brisket was perfect. It just didn't have the time to absorb the juice back in," he said, adding with a grin, "As long as I beat Micky, it's all good."In the end, though, it was Garus that walked away with bragging rights ... at least until next year.American Smokers took grand champion and first-place pulled pork honors. Clems Meat Wagon took second in both pulled pork and brisket.Dallas City Councilor Beth Jones, who coordinated Freedomfest, was so happy with the first year -- about 200 people turned out for dinner alone -- that she's already planning Freedomfest 2014.It seems likely by then Clement and Garus will be ready for a rematch."We will do it again next year," Garus said. "It can only get bigger and better."

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