Texas is about as unique and diverse as a state can get. Across the state you can find different events that draw interesting Texans from all walks of life. Over the Labor Day weekend, I attended the World Championship Goat Cookoff in Brady, Texas, which has now been held in Brady for 45 years.
When I first heard about this event, I’ll admit I was hesitant – I had tried goat jerky once before but was not a goat meat afficionado! However, if millions of people worldwide eat goat and the folks in Brady have a championship dedicated to cooking goat, then goat meat must be tasty – right?!
My little brother and I made the hour and a half scenic drive to Brady. The town itself oozes Texas charm, and is dubbed “the heart of Texas” because it’s located dead center in the Lone Star state. We found our parking spot in Richards Park, a city park along a lake and boasting hundreds of old trees that provided much needed shade in the early September heat. Before we even stepped out of the truck, the smell of BBQ wafted through our air vents and we became more excited about our afternoon excursion.
There were over 90 different groups competing in the World Championship Goat Cookoff. The competitors camp out in campers and RV’s with their smokers and grills close by and most decorate their area along the cookout theme. Everyone we passed seemed to be having a good ole time. For me, the ultimate barbecue setup was one aptly named “Goat Willies,” made up of a giant smoker on a trailer complete with an indoor kitchen that had everything from a fridge, Keurig, television, and even air conditioning. (I will always be excited for air conditioning). The owner of Goat Willies reported he has been coming to this festival for over 20 years! He also shared with me many secrets about smoking goat, which I am not allowed to disclose in this article for fear of being cooked next! Though I will tell you most of the people I met say you need to cook the goat for at least 4 hours “low and slow”.
As our journey continued through the maze of smokers and campsites, I ran across the coolest homemade statue of a goat made to look like Willie Nelson. Fun fact: the cookoff has a different theme every year, but every five years the cookoff goes back to honor one of our most famous Texan’s – Willie Nelson. Anyway, the statue belonged to the sweetest couple who were camping out in an old air stream and cooking for the competition. The wife had spent over two months making Willie the Goat out of duct tape and other materials. The couple invited us to sit down and stay awhile and then proceeded to feed us goat meat tacos that were fabulous!
Not only does the Brady cookoff feature goat meat, but there’s also competition for the best Margarita, Bloody Mary, Ribs, and Mystery Meat (I think I’ll pass on that one). The park was filled with vendors selling all sorts of goods (goat related and non-goat related). They also made the cookoff fun for the kiddos with a petting zoo, bouncy castles, and face painting. Grownups had the chance to sample “adult beverages” with the Texas Beer and Wine Tasting event.
After a full afternoon of tasting some delicious samples of goat meat and wandering all over the grounds, we were ready for the evening entertainment. Live music began at 7pm with Shotgun Rider, Jon Wolfe, and Jason Boland and the Stragglers. All gave a fantastic show. These three are some of the top artists in the Texas country music industry right now and I was super excited to see them perform. After the concert ended, my brother and I reluctantly made the drive back home while discussing our adventure the whole trip.
The World Championship Goat Cookoff is a true gem! The food is great and the people involved are even better. The expense of a wrist band for 10 bucks that will get you in all weekend was definitely worth it! We expect this Texas tradition will go on for at least another 45 years, so if you haven’t been to this unique cook off, get it on your bucket list for next year! Here’s to 45 years of smoking Goat!