Where there’s smoke, there’s fire
Located right by the entrance to The Royal, the site of the Cabo Wabo party sponsoring Mixon is a honeypot for fans of barbecue culture. A team from Germany shows up to shake his hand and take their picture with the smoker, the first of many that weekend. He greets them with the same exuberance he’ll show to old friends, and then watches them go with the smile still on his face.
“I love the international competitors,” he muses. Again and again this weekend you’ll hear how barbecue is family. However much time and money pitmasters invest in vying for the W at the ‘Que, they admire each other, and they adore the grill.
Ah yes, that smoker.
Nothing attracts as much attention as this black beast, designed to spec from Georgia, forged in New England, and given wheels and ape hangers in Florida so it might fume from anywhere. One woman trips as she slows down to admire it.
Friendly foes stop by to say hello and check out the hefty smoker, each one cheerfully welcomed by Mixon, who drops whatever he’s doing to greet them. This is southern hospitality at its best; he hands his cohorts gifts with an incessant, infectious belly laugh.
Mixon walks the fairground to give t-shirts and Caborita towers -- red drink dispensers ready to serve 2.5 liters -- to any friends he might have missed: Burly men with names like “Tuffy” Stone, “Big Moe” Cason, and “Stretch” Rumaner.
Stretch’s tattoos and huge smile are familiar from numerous Food Network shows about BBQ, beer, and pizza. He’s a sculptor who considers himself as much conceptual artist as pitmaster. This weekend he’s debuted the Porkerator, a smoked hog’s head with beer pouring from the taps where its eyes should be.