Back on Summer Solstice Day, June 21, I sauntered down to Cedar Hill (a berg due south of Dallas) and took a look at their Neighborhood BBQ Cook Off and Small Town Saturday Night celebration. It was really <> set up for local people to get to know each other, but I know I wasn’t the only interloper there, and it was a great little get-together all in all. Hey, there was free barbecue; what’s not to like?
I’d never been to Cedar Hill before, and I was pleasantly surprised. For one thing, it’s very well-named; it’s in an unexpectedly hilly area right next to Joe Pool Lake, and yes, those hills are covered with mountain cedar, a common sight in Northcentral Texas, and the source of most of the pollen powering local hay fever allergies. Incidentally, though we call these cedars, they’re actually a species of juniper — Juniperus ashei. Sadly, you can’t use the berries to make gin, though they definitely smell like gin when you crush ’em.
Anyway, back to Cedar Hill. The town itself is a study in contrasts. It can’t really be said to be a small town anymore — it boasts a population of over 40,000, just like neighboring De Soto — but the old downtown surrounding the City Hall is still small and cozy, and retains all that small town charm. There may be sprawling shopping centers out on Highways 1382 and 67, but you’d never know it from the looks of old downtown Cedar Hill. Here, check it out yourself.
Admittedly the crowd wasn’t huge — I don’t think the event was advertised all that heavily — but there were quite a few people there, as you can see. I didn’t get to the “Small Town Saturday Night” part, since I was only there in the late afternoon (and a bright day it was, too), but I got to enjoy the BBQ Cook Off part. It was held in City Hall Park, right downtown.
There were several different barbecue setups, and my understanding is that they represented the various Cedar Hill neighborhoods, of which I can remember only Kingwood. In any case, here are a couple of the setups. I thought the name of the second was especially amusing.
Best of all? You could get samples of the barbecue for free! Yep. I have to say, every bit that I tasted, both chicken and ribs, was just plain excellent. I prefer to feast on my barbecue either dry or light on the sauce, and this time I went sauce-free — and I loved every bit. I have to admit, I gnawed the rib bones right down to the nubs. I don’t often eat ribs because they’re so messy, but these were worth the bother. Well done, Cedar Hill guys!
Here’s one grill where I got some of the ribs. They were running a little low on the giveaways, because they were saving most of their ribs for the judges, who started judging the rib entries about five minutes after I took the picture.
Speaking of judges — you know, when you’re the judge for something like this, there just ain’t no way to lose. I know, because I was one of the judges for that Chili Cookoff at Trader’s Village back in April, remember? (My mouth is watering just thinking about it!). Anyhoo, these guys were certainly enjoying life when I was there. Considering that there were several kinds of barbecue to be judged, including chicken and ribs and sausages at least, I’m thinking they probably had to be rolled away from the table when they were done.
One other thing I have to mention, and this is something I haven’t seen before — a mobile blacksmith. While it’s obvious that this fellow makes most of his money by creating knick-knacks out of metal, apparently he’s a farrier too. Haven’t seen one of those in years.
He was working on some kind of brackets while I was there, and I have to tell you, he’s a better man than I am to be able to handle both the day’s heat (close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and the heat from the forge, too. And yes, he did have one with him — a small one, too be sure, but it looked plenty hot. It would have to be, wouldn’t it, to soften metal? You can see it there in the background of this next shot, though the picture doesn’t do its sheer hotness justice. I fancied I could feel it from where I stood, though that might just have been the barbecue pits. Those fellas were pretty much suffering from the heat, too. But damn, they produced some good-tastin’ stuff.
The Small Town Saturday Night part (which alas, I was unable to attend due to prior obligations) was held in Pioneer Park until 9 PM. Country rockers The Jimmy Kaiser Band provided the entertainment. I missed the first act at City Hall Park, the Kirk Thurmond Band, but I got to enjoy the sounds of another rockin’ country band, Southbound Texas 35. These guys had a great sound going, and I was especially impressed by their rendition of Lefty Frizzell’s classic, “Long Black Veil.” Man, that song gives me the chills when it’s performed right, and these guys did it justice.
I can’t say that a good time was had by all at the Cedar Hill celebration, but a good time was definitely had by me, and I didn’t hear any complaints. Oh, and did I mention that both the BBQ Cookoff and the Small Town Saturday Night were free? Well, they were. You’ve missed it for 2008, but they’re sure to do it again next year, so keep an eye on Cedar Hill’s Community News web page at http://www.cedarhilltxgov.org/CivicAlerts.asp. You can even sign up for their newsfeed if you want; that just goes to show how up-to-date and high-tech the City of Cedar Hill is, despite the fact that they’re managed to retain their old-fashioned small town charm. See you there next year!