When Ranch Foods Direct customer Keith Wells, his wife Linda and their two daughters want to get away, they escape to the historic Salt Works Ranch near Buena Vista where they can ride around on horses or in the ranch’s old 1949 Buick, cozy up in the cabin library and cook up Ranch Foods Direct ingredients in true Old West style.

Campfire cooking just seems to add special spice to a meal. There’ll be plenty of it going on at the chuckwagon cookoff July 2 in conjunction with the Ride for the Brand Ranch Rodeo. Keith is entered for the first time this year. Ranch Foods Direct is providing the chuck roll for the competition, as well as cooking free burgers for the kids at Norris-Penrose Event Center starting at 5 p.m. The rodeo follows at 6:30 p.m.

Ranch Foods Direct customer Kit Haddock and his dad Phil are repeat contenders and former champions in the annual chuckwagon shootout. Strict adherence to tradition means challenges abound, such as managing cooking temps while out in the open cooking over wood coals. “You may have to rotate the oven or put up windbreaks,” Kit explains. “You have to sense things. You are constantly watching the food.”

Even without modern conveniences and gadgets, the grub turns out amazingly good. “We are cooking with all-scratch ingredients,” Kit says. “There isn’t any processed foods. So many processed foods lose their flavor, no matter what you do. You are using natural spices and the good ingredients help. Plus, we want to win! We’re all good cooks and all here to do better than the last time we did this.”

The public is invited to view the wagons and enjoy a plateful of cowboy cooking before the rodeo; tickets are $15 apiece. If you miss Saturday’s event, another chuckwagon cookoff will be held in conjunction with the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo on July 16. Ranch Foods Direct donates the beef for both contests; the talented cowboy cooks do the rest. So round everyone up and head out for the best meal in town!

THE RODEO COMES TO TOWN IN JULY along with chuckwagon cooking! Get a plate of real cowboy fare made from Callicrate Beef, 5 p.m. July 2 at Norris-Penrose Event Center. Tickets $15, available online at TicketsWest or at the event. Same set-up for Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo, July 16.