The Jasper County Fair kicked off last Friday and so did the beginning of a new tradition: The Tailgating Contest. I was absolutely honored to be able to judge this newly formed annual tribute to outdoor partying.
Jasper County Tribune/NDN staff writer Matt “Mandals” Nosco served as my fellow judge.
Picking a winner was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in the last few months; it ranks right up with there with the agonizing task of only selecting four children to speak for our “Kid’s Say” segment on Friday’s.
Now people may think that I’m blowing it out of proportion by labeling that task as antagonizing, but that word fits perfectly. Do you know how hard it is to select only four kids, when there are between 10 to 30 kids all waving their hands at you frantically in hopes of being in the paper? It’s tough, which is why I love when teachers/parents/assistants play “bad guy” and pick the kids for me.
Anyhow, let’s get back to the tailgate. Nosco and I had to make a decision from the four tailgates and it was tough.
The Schlosser family had a tailgate that was entirely run by the children. The kids did a great job and what was really impressive was that the grilled brats and corn all came from their farm. This family literally grew their tailgate. They were also very generous in providing samples and seemed to be having a good time.
The Lynnville-Sully Hawks tailgate was very nicely decorated. They had “Dirt Pie,” pulled pork on crackers, a root beer keg, tortilla pin wheel wraps and popcorn with various seasonings. “No more naked popcorn” indeed.
This tailgate also featured a guest appearance by the L-S mascot played by various members of the party. I really appreciated the décor of this tailgate; everything was powder blue and yellow including fingernails on some of the kids. They also got a lot of decorations at Dollar Tree, and you all know how I feel about Dollar Tree.
I enjoyed all four tailgates, but the last two tailgates are what really made this a tough call. These guys brought everything except for the kitchen sink.
The “Sycobus” is a tailgate group that is dedicated to all things Iowa State and they have a giant red bus to prove it (Clifford eat your big red dog heart out). These guys were pros, they even provided me with my first ever “walking taco” (I’m from Kansas, we don’t have those).
Members of Sycobus had group t-shirts, an annual chili contest plaque, and a flat screen TV playing an old Cyclone game. They meant serious business and obviously they came to win. For the most part the group was nice, but within ear shot of the judges, one member of the team made a negative comment about another tailgate. Oh, no, the worst.
Sportsmanship is a key component in this contest and one of the five judging criteria.
Oh, yes, the best—“A Tailgate Divided” the winners of the Jasper County Fair 2013 Tailgating Contest. This was another team that brought out the big guns. They captured my heart (and stomach) with their bacon-wrapped shrimp kabobs and Nosco must have drank 20 glasses of their secret recipe punch.
This team also destroyed us in a bag toss game. Despite not letting the judges win, they embodied everything the fair committee sought when they came up with this contest.
• Decorations- They had a great mixture of Hawkeye and Cyclone merchandise. Everything from magnetic dart boards to a red and black cow. They were right up with the L-S tailgate in terms of decoration.
• Team Spirit- These guys had the music playing and made UI and ISU fans look like long lost brothers. It was phenomenal.
• The menu items provided- Bacon-wrapped-shrimp, that’s all that needs to be said.
• Enthusiasm- This was a dry event, so whereever they garnered that much natural enthusiasm from was amazing. A Tailgate Divided and Sycobus were both incredibly loud, but not in an obnoxious way.
• Sportsmanship- This is what sealed the victory for A Tailgate Divided. They said great things about all of the other tailgates and were generally just having a great time.
Judging is an incredibly difficult job. You have to eat free food, play bag toss, and carry a clipboard around. There is only so much fun and free food that one man can handle.
All kidding aside, I really enjoyed it and I hated that there could only be one “winner.” Every one of these groups won, just by helping participate in this event and getting it kicked off.
Rhonda Guy did a great job with this and I hope there is an even bigger turnout next year. I would love to see some Red Pride out there. As sportswriter Dustin Turner pointed out in his column last Friday, “The Cardinals’ combination of red and black is classic and timeless.”
Those same words can be said about this new tradition at the Jasper County Fair.
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Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641)-792-3121, ext. 426, or at email@example.com