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One of Pigeon Forge’s most unique events is back for another year of food and fun! In March, our Smoky Mountain city will host the annual Chuckwagon Cookoff, a special culinary competition inspired by the cuisine of the Old West. Guests at the event will have the chance to dine on the same dishes that cowboys enjoyed back in the 1800s. To help you make the most of your next vacation, Visit My Smokies has put together a guide to everything you need to know about the Pigeon Forge Chuckwagon Cookoff.
History of Chuckwagons
So, what is a chuckwagon exactly? Considered an ancestor of the modern food truck, a chuckwagon is a covered wagon that serves as a “field kitchen.” During the latter half of the 19th century, chuckwagons were used to store and transport food and cooking equipment on the prairies of the Old West. The chuckwagon is so named because “chuck” was a slang term for food.
The chuckwagon has its origins in the massive cattle drives that took place after the Civil War. From 1866 – 1886, 20 million cattle were driven from Texas to Kansas! During these epic drives through remote areas, cowboys needed a way to feed themselves for months spent on the road. The legendary rancher Charles Goodnight devised the perfect solution: a modified Studebaker army wagon with a wooden box bolted to the back. This “chuck box” featured storage space for utensils and a hinged lid, which provided a flat cooking surface.
The chuckwagon cooks, known as “cookies”, typically prepared salted meats, beans, sourdough biscuits, coffee, and other foods that were easy to preserve.
What to Expect at the Pigeon Forge Chuckwagon Cookoff
The main attraction at the Chuckwagon Cookoff in Pigeon Forge is the big cooking competition and luncheon at Clabough’s Campground. Ten different chuckwagon teams will vie for a variety of awards and cash prizes. Participants will be judged on the authenticity of their wagons and the quality of their dishes.
Food categories include meat, potatoes, beans, bread, and dessert. All of the food will be cooked outdoors at the campground using ingredients provided to the chuckwagon teams. Guests who pay for lunch will have the chance to sample this mouthwatering food straight from the wagon!
The folks who participate in the Chuckwagon Cookoff are extremely dedicated to their craft. Some teams even use chuckwagons that were built in the 1860s! To get a sense of what to expect, check out this interview that the Knoxville News Sentinel filmed with one of the Chuckwagon Cookoff chefs a few years back:
In addition to the fantastic food, guests at the cookoff can also enjoy free entertainment, such as live music, cowboy poetry, and old-time Western activities for children.
This Year’s Schedule
The Pigeon Forge Chuckwagon Cookoff is scheduled for March 3, 2018. The main event will take place at Clabough’s Campground, which is located at 405 Wears Valley Road. There will also be additional cowboy-themed events at other locations around Pigeon Forge running through March 4. For a complete schedule of the festivities (and online tickets), visit the official Chuckwagon Cookoff website.
More Fun Events in Pigeon Forge
Looking for even more awesome things to do in the Smoky Mountains during your getaway? Bookmark our Pigeon Forge Events Calendar to stay up to date on everything going on in town!