When his partner takes on barbecuing heavyweights from all over the world at the Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue Saturday, Whipple resident and local barbecue champ "Cowboy" Dan Warren will not be able to be there in person, but he will be there in spirit.
"It is probably the most prestigious barbecue contest in the U.S.," said Warren.
Work obligations are keeping Warren at home this year, but he has plans for some homespun barbecue competition action of his own.
"At our farm we are having the first annual chicken cook off. We've got five teams right now," he said.
Warren has invited 300 of his friends and neighbors to Saturday's private event and will give out tickets to the people in attendance to vote for their favorite.
While the chickens are cooking, Warren will be rooting for his teammate, Cleveland resident Rob Marion, who was already preparing for "The Jack" in Lynchburg, Tenn. on Thursday.
"It is not like any other contest. Just having the teams from all over the world, you have some of the best of the best of the best," said Marion.
The contest features 68 teams from the United States and an additional 20 international teams, all of whom had to qualify to compete by winning a competition during the past barbecue season. The final competitors were selected from a blind drawing from the pool of qualified candidates, according to the contest information released by Jack Daniel's.
What makes the barbecuing world so great are the competitors, said Marion.
"It is such a close knit community. I did not get to bring my trailer, and I have a team that is bringing one from Kentucky for me to use," said Warren.
That spirit of camaraderie and a shared love of barbecue are what first drew Warren and Marion together.
"We met a few years back at the first Brickstreet Barbecue (in Marietta). He won grand and I won reserve and we kind of hooked up," said Warren.
After that first meeting, the two talked for hours on end about barbecuing.
"He is such a lovable lug that how can you just not want to help him," joked Marion.
As a team, the two have already been in some well known competitions. Recently, they appeared on TLC's BBQ Pitmasters, where they only lost by six-tenths of a point.
While Marion takes competitions very seriously, he said Warren has a more laid back attitude.
"Dan is competitive, but he also likes to have a lot of fun with it, to meet people," said Marion.
The laid back attitude is evident when Warren talks about missing the big event.
"I'm pretty sure we will being going back to The Jack again," he said.