This April will be the first in more than a decade without Colusa Western Days, but two of the event’s main attractions – the Dutch Oven and Rib Cook-offs – will live on this weekend at Rocco’s on the River.
On Saturday, a total of 15 teams will face off in a rib cook-off, said organizer Don Litchfield, co-owner of Rocco’s on the River. Each of the teams will begin cooking between 12 and 15 racks of ribs that morning, but judging won’t start until 12 PM.
For $20, the public can grab lunch and take part in tasting and judging for the People’s Choice Award, for both ribs and chili, also around 12 PM.
“We just thought it would be a good idea to pick up the torch and go with it. We wanted to do one for a while, and the timing just seems right now,” Litchfield said, adding that the field of contestants for the rib cook-off was already full. “We just need keep community events like this going to keep people interested in their community. Without community events, we wouldn’t have a community.”
The costs of patrons’ lunch tickets will also be going toward a noble cause: all of the proceeds from the rib cook-off will be donated to the Friends of the Colusa County Animal Shelter (FOCCAS).
“We felt it was appropriate because our logo is a dog, we named our restaurant after our dog, and we felt it was just something that needed some focus, so to speak,” Litchfield said.
The inaugural Kirk Kelleher Memorial Dutch Oven Cook-off will take place on Sunday. The event is being spearheaded by Gene McKasson, Kelleher’s friend and long-time teammate at the Western Days Dutch Oven Cook-off.
“In a nutshell, that’s what he and I did together,” said McKasson, who cooked with Kelleher for more than 15 years at the Western Days contest, and also year-round in their back yards. “He loved to cook. I’m not sure whatever got him into that, but Kirk really loved to cook outdoors. Having that competition at Western Days made it even more fun for us. I felt that this would be a really fitting tribute to him.”
McKasson said that he is still looking for cooks to compete, and that he will be taking entry forms through the end of the day today. Forms can be picked up and returned to Highway 20 Sign Works. The cost to enter is $50.
“If they like Dutch oven cooking, they’ve got bragging rights on the line if they win,” McKasson said.
The competition will include a main dish, a side dish, a bread and a dessert. The cooking area opens at 6:30 AM, team check-in is at 9 AM, and judging will begin at 11:30 AM. Public serving will begin around noon.
As with the rib cook-off, there is a $20 entry fee.
“We’d like to see this event succeed and continue for many years,” said McKasson. “We’d like to get as many people out there as we can.”■