Your 2018 guide to Colorado BBQ Challenge in Frisco |

Your 2018 guide to Colorado BBQ Challenge in Frisco

Meat and seafood kebabs during the annual Colorado BBQ Challenge Friday, June 16, on Main Street in Frisco.
Hugh Carey /

As Frisco gears up for its biggest event of the year, what makes the annual Colorado BBQ Challenge so delicious depends upon just whom you ask.

The shindig featuring teams competing for coveted titles in categories such as best pork, ribs, chicken, brisket, anything goes, barbecue sauce, side dishes, salsa and dessert, extends over six blocks on Main Street Frisco, pulling in tens of thousands to downtown every year.

It starts with a kickoff concert at 7 p.m. tonight, but things really start smoking Friday and Saturday when barbecue sales begin. On Friday, the barbecue goes from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.

It sounds like the barbecue can’t come soon enough for the two young women who were all smiles Wednesday as they worked the Foote’s Rest Sweet Shoppe on Main Street.

One of them, Keelie Rix, is no stranger to the annual event, and she knows it’s one box she has to cross off this summer. The other, Holly Richardson, who’s new to town, is eager to see what all the sauce is about.

“It’s my favorite time of the year,” Rix said of the barbecue. “Awesome food, awesome music, and there’s always this one little place that has like the best mac and cheese I’ve ever had in my entire life.”

Originally from Texas and partial to brisket, Richardson comes from a state that knows a thing or two about good barbecue. She’s staying in Summit County for the summer, and while Richardson hasn’t experienced Frisco’s beloved event herself, she’s already heard plenty about it.

“When (my friend and I) saw the barbecue festival, we were like, ‘This is perfect for us,’” Richardson said. “Everyone says it’s insane. The streets are shut down. I can’t wait.”

Just down the street at Calisco Wearables, a boutique that specializes in outdoor fashion, yoga and active lifestyle clothing, along with other items, the store’s owner, Lua Ton, just restocked her inventory ahead of the big weekend.

For Ton, summers are the busiest time of the year at the store, and she said the barbecue always provides a nice boost to kick off the season, especially when good weather holds.

“In general, summertime is generally bigger (for sales),” Ton said. “The barbecue is a good start, and it’s a push where the sales really kick off for the rest of the summer.”

As a result, Calisco is going all out for the event. In addition to having food and drink at the store, Ton has a small stage set up with guitars, bongo drums and more for open mic performances.

Pictures of previous open mics grace the walls inside the store, and Ton has the photo, dated Sept. 13, 2007, to prove four-time Grammy winner Keb’ Mo’ once played in Friso.

The first official state BBQ challenge was in 1993. Twenty-two-year-old Cameron Bobb, a Breckenridge native, wasn’t yet born when the event came to Frisco 25 years ago, but over the last two decades he’s come to know it well.

For Bobb, the best part isn’t the food, the live music, the street performers or even the piglet races. Instead, he said it’s the “social aspect” of the event and running into so many familiar faces.

The Colorado BBQ Challenge is free, but Hogbacks remain the going currency for food, drink, souvenirs and children’s activities.

Each Hogback represents $1. The purchases are non-refundable, but participating restaurants, bars and shops — look for signs that say “Hogbacks Accepted Here”— will continue taking them through Sunday.

Because of the large crowds, parking can become an issue. This year, parking lot construction in town has organizers “willing to pay” festivalgoers who take Interstate 70 to Exit 195, Copper Mountain.

At Copper, any cars with three or more people inside will get five Hogbacks per carload and a coupon that’s good for 25 percent off a purchase of Hogbacks. Cars with four or more will get the same coupon along with 10 Hogbacks.

A shuttle will ferry people from the mountain to Frisco from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday. Because there is so much food at the event, dogs are not allowed. A fireworks show on Friday has been canceled. For more information, go to or call 1-800-424-1554.


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