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Contest has hometown flavor for Chism

DEMOPOLIS-For most barbecue teams, the Christmas on the River state barbecue cook-off is a chance to see how the match up against some of the South’s best grillers. However, for Ron Chism, it is a chance to go home.

Chism, who represents the Bad Byron’s Butt Rub team from Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., spent the first four years of his life in Demopolis. Last year, he said, was his first chance to come home.

“Last year it was great because I was born here in 1961 and I hadn’t been back,” Chism said. “My parents lived here for about 15 years and this was the first place they had ever lived after they were married.”

Chism’s father worked with Gulf States in the early 1960’s and Ron was born in Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital. Returning to his birthplace last year, Chism said, was a great experience.

Several years ago, Chism began working with Bad Byron’s Specialty Food Products, Inc. The company’s original product, Bad Byron’s Butt Rub, was created as a an all-purpose seasoning with a balanced blend of onion, garlic, salt, pepper, paprika and chipotle. The group soon began competing in competitions to test the product out.

Since their beginnings, they have found a great deal of success. Butt Rub has received the coveted ‘Awards of Excellence” from the National Barbecue Association, with Butt Rub being a First Place recipient for 1999.

Bad Byron’s Butt Rub has also received 2nd place awards from the American Royal International Sauce Contest, Food Distribution Magazine and the Scovie Awards.

In 2003 Butt Rub received the 1st Place Golden Chile Award for Cook-Off Seasoning/Rub, awarded by Chile

Last year, Chism made his homecoming count as he added one more award to his list by winning the Christmas on the River competition.

“Last year we came back and I ended up being grand champion,” Chism said. “It was like a grand homecoming in a way. I met a lot of people that knew my parents and a lot of their friends came and looked me up.”

Coming to Demopolis, Chism said, is a wonderful experience.

“The people here are really hospitable,” Chism said. “They are very helpful, cordial and extremely friendly.”

Several local competitors and others who logged serious mileage to participate join Chism.

Tom McKenzie, who traveled from Huntsville to barbecue for “The Smoking Section,” said this was his first experience with Christmas on the River.

“We do this a lot at home and we have cooked in a few competitions,” McKenzie said. “This is our first trip to Christmas on the River.”

Friendly competition, McKenzie said, led his team to the River City.

“It has been really nice so far,” McKenzie said. “We met Jack Cooley up in Huntsville at another competition last year and he was cooking right beside us. He got us interested in coming down here and we decided to come and try it.”

Judging for the barbecue competition begins at noon today and runs until 4 p.m at the Demopolis City Landing.