Mad Dog's thought for the day: Two things define you. Your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything --- author unknown

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“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain -- and most fools do.“
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Sweet Peppers returning to defend title in second annual Smokin' in Mesquite BBQ Championship
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Jim Ballog, left, and his Sweet Peppers BBQ team are headed for Mesquite on Labor Day Weekend to defend the teamís title in the Smokiní in Mesquite BBQ competition at the CasaBlanca Resort. He is shown with his teammate Adrian Sanderson.


Jim Ballog and his Sweet Peppers BBQ team are headed for Mesquite on Labor Day Weekend to defend the team’s title in the Smokin’ in Mesquite BBQ competition at the CasaBlanca Resort.

The event marked yet another brilliant marketing effort on behalf of Mesquite Resort Association last year, and Ballog and teammate Adrian Sanderson are making the trek again this year chasing their share of a huge $40,000 purse.

“We’re two old guys traveling in a mini van,” laughed the 59 year-old Ballog while heading for another event in Dillon, Colo. earlier this month. “Our trip to Mesquite is an all-day trip. We try to plan it out where we get there to set up and cook before heading back Sunday morning.”

If ever there was an ideal set up for a major automobile manufacturer to sponsor a good-hearted and dedicated couple of travelers, it’s most definitely Ballog and Sanderson. The team had an overall 12th place finish in Colorado, and Ballog and Sanderson are hungry for a repeat win in Mesquite.

“We travel in an ’09 Van which already has 90,000 miles on it,” said Ballog while traveling through the mountains of Colorado. “We’re on our third set of tires. We were actually working with a Chevy-Chrysler dealership in Albuquerque for a possible sponsorship.”

Sanderson, a 65 year-old resident of Pueblo, Colo., works as a motorcycle helmet rep and also sells motorcycle apparel; while Ballog sells and services electric motors in Albuquerque. When you add in sauce specialist Ben Mosier from Nebraska, Sweet Peppers is comprised of a top-rated team as evidenced by its success last year at the Smokin’ in Mesquite BBQ championship.

While the victory was a big one, the experience was also memorable for more reasons than one. Now in their seventh year of BBQ competition, Mesquite offered its own set of challenges.

“We weren’t used to the heat,” said Ballog. “Then, we had what appeared to be a tornado hit in the middle of the night, so we had our hands full. We even went out and bought a bunch of fans.

“There will be people from all over the world coming to Mesquite for this year’s event.”

No doubt. The Mesquite event sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Association instantly became the place-to-be after the 2009 tallies had been totaled and the fever grew even more when it was announced that a round-robin format would also tie the Mesquite event with the Memorial Day Best Dam Barbeque held in Boulder City.

Sweet Peppers also competed in the Best Dam BBQ event and is now vying for the overall championship purse of $3,000.

Key to any BBQ competition is the science that goes into the planning. There are logistical challenges not to mention making sure vehicles are ready. Throw in the elements needed for the BBQ competition, and it is evident the path to Mesquite actually leads to Lynchburg, Tenn., the home of the Jack Daniels invitational championship contest Oct. 22-23.

“This is a hobby now, but there is no question that a lot of work goes into something like this,” said Ballog, a native of Pittsburgh, Pa. “If you travel like we do, you’re on the road every weekend usually traveling 900-1,000 miles.

“It’s a fun deal. I cook a lot and really enjoy it. This sort of thing gives a guy a chance to do something without having to buy a $25,000 boat. He can spend that much money on a smoker, but he doesn’t have to. And besides, he can have an even better time when he includes his family in the competition.”

Of course, the key is making sure the team is properly equipped for the trip to Mesquite.

“I think we spend about $120 for the meat for each contest,” Ballog said. “Then, you have to make sure you have the Cheetos, bags of cookies, the iced tea and the Jack Daniels.

“We try to buy our pork butts and briskets at Sam’s Club and our pork ribs at Costco. Low quality meat is not something you want to have when you’re more than 500 miles from home.”

With the inaugural event under its belt, Sweet Peppers is heading for Mesquite convinced the team will win again.

“I believe we’re going to come into Mesquite ready for anyone,” Ballog predicted. “We’re not cocky. We’re just a very consistent team that comes in and cooks hard. I think we’re ready for anybody this year.”

Consistency is certainly important in the BBQ competition and Sweet Peppers has been a grand champion four times while also collecting numerous second (known as the Reserve) and third place finishes. In addition, the team has captured the Arizona Team of the Year honors as named by AZ BBQ of Phoenix.

Ballog never stops trying to improve his BBQ skills.

“My poor family eats chicken every weekend,” he says, “and the family is good at telling me if something is any good. You have to be objective and appreciate what people tell you.”

Yet another key is making sure the team doesn’t panic when a challenge is presented.

“We handle everything very well,” said Ballog. “We’re getting older, so we don’t get excited. If we’re having a problem with the fire or the meat, we make a quick decision and stick with it.”

The Smokin’ in Mesquite event will kick off Thursday, Sept. 2 with an eight-hour cooking class taught by noted meat expert Dave Bouska, a native Oklahoman who was ranked among the top competitors in Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) BBQ events last year.

Bouska will share his expertise with all ages beginning at 8 a.m. in a seminar-like event that is expected to last until about 4 p.m. A $150 fee will be charged to those participating in the unique class.

Further information regarding this year’s event can be found by visiting or by calling Christian Adderson at 888-711-4653, ext. 51.



8:00 AM- 4:00PM
BBQ 101 Cooking Class by David Bouska of BBQ Butcher

5:30 PM-10:00 PM
KCBS Judging Class


4:00-10:00 PM
Beer Garden and Event Pavilion Opens
Music, BBQ food, Kids Corner, Interactive Games

5:00-10:00 PM
Las Vegas Taildraggers- Rods N BBQ Car Show

7:30-8:00 PM
Crown Royal Whiskey Master Thomas Turner- Pairing Whiskey with BBQ


11:00 AM-7:00 PM
Beer Garden and Event Pavilion Opens
Music, BBQ food, Kids Corner, Interactive Games
Las Vegas Taildraggers- Rods N BBQ Car Show

Noon-1:00 PM
Salsa Making Contest Sponsored by Get Fresh

12:30-12:40 PM
Monster Energy Stacker Challenge

1:00-1:30 PM
Salsa Making Contest Sponsored by Get Fresh Judging & Awards

2:00-2:30 PM
Team Eating Challenge- Must have 5 team members to participate and all members must be at least 21 years of age

2:30- 2:45 PM
Pie Eating Contest sponsored by Universal Bakery-Youth- Must be 12 years of age or younger

2:45-3:00 PM
Pie Eating Contest sponsored by Universal Bakery- Adults

3:30-4:00 PM
Malibu Rum Runner Daiquiri Challenge- Must be at least 21 years of age to participate

4:00-4:30 PM
Crown Royal Whiskey Master Thomas Turner

5:00-5:30 PM
BBQ Rib Eating Contest

3:00-5:00 PM
People's Choice- Come sample competitive teams pork and vote for your favorite!

6:00 PM
BBQ Awards and People’s Choice will be awarded


11:00AM-5:00 PM
Beer Garden, Event Pavilion Opens,
Music, BBQ food, Kids Corner, Interactive Games

Rib Off Competition

10:00 AM -2:30PM
Backyard BBQ
11:00 AM- Competition Begins

2:30 PM- Backyard BBQ Awards, Las Vegas Taildraggers People’s Choice Awards and Rib Off Awards

Noon-12:30 PM
Watermelon Eating & Seed Spitting Contest

1:30-2:00 PM
Monster Energy Stacker Challenge

2:00-2:30 PM
How To Make a Championship BBQ Rub

3:00-3:30 PM
Rib Eating Contest

6 PM
Drawing inside CasaBlanca Casino for two trips to Bud Light Port Paradise Cruise


Contacts: Darrell Edwards, 888-711-4653, ext. 11, or email him at; Christian Adderson at 702-346-7529, ext. 6981, or email him at; or Mike Henle at 702-279-3483 or email



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