MARLINTON, W.Va. — Beautiful late-September weather and the annual Roadkill Cook-Off brought a wild time to Marlinton this past weekend as nearly a thousand people ventured to the small mountain town to taste and vote on wild game dishes and take in the sights, sounds and smells of the annual Autumn Harvest Festival.
The weather could not have been more conducive to a festival that, according to Roadkill Cook-Off director, Ben Wilfong, “brought in record numbers.”
“This is the best turn-out ever,” Wilfong exclaimed as he looked up and down the main thorofare of Marlinton. “We could not have asked for better weather for this event.”
The main street of Marlinton was lined with over 20 vendors offering everything from farm products such as apple cider and honey to handmade quilting products and basketry. Homemade foods were offered up here and there along the street by nonprofits and individuals who just like to cook and bake.
Music drifted from Gazebo Park where people sat and enjoyed the bluesy ballads of Erica Rebinski and Wesley Cash and, later, the bluegrass riffs of local favorites the Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys and the Bing Brothers featuring fiddle player, Jake Krack.
Meanwhile, down on Second Avenue, the RoadKill cooks were heating up the griddles, the cookers, the steamers, and the charcoal grills preparing some of the wackiest, wild dishes in these parts.
Since 2011 the Roadkill Cook-off, held in conjuction with Marlinton’s Autumn Harvest Festival, has been covered by major news outlets like CNN, the Discovery Channel and the Travel Channel. Andrew Zimmern of “Bizarre Foods” even made a trip in 2011 to judge the cook-off, which was televised on the Travel Channel.
By the look of the crowd on ‘vendor row’ and at the Cook-off area in the park this weekend, that advertising was paying off.
Cara Rose, executive director of the Pocahontas County Convention & Visitors Bureau, was busy tallying votes for the People’s Choice award in the annual West Virginia Biscuit Bakeoff.
“The Biscuit Bakeoff is in its fourth year, and the registration list grows every year,” she noted. “There are some awesome biscuits here today.”
Biscuits, large and small, were displayed on two tables in the Marlinton Municipal Building. There were traditional biscuits, savory biscuits and sweet biscuits. The sweet-toothed taster couldn’t help but adore the “Spicy Pumpkin Nut” biscuit with maple-nut icing baked by Jean McClure of Marlinton, and the People’s Choice award winner Fresh Strawberry Biscuit with yellow glaze icing baked by Summersville native Goldie O’Quinn.
Winners in all categories were: Traditional Biscuit first place, Jean McClure, Marlinton; second place, Ollie Barkley of Marlinton; and third place, Goldie O’Quinn with a buttermilk traditional from Summersville, West Virginia.
Savory Biscuit winners were: First place, Goldie O’Quinn with a “Jalapeno and Goat Cheese” biscuit; second place, Tina Barkley of Marlinton with a “Sausage and Cheese” biscuit; and third place, Ollie Barkley with her “Jalapeno Wake-up” biscuit.
In the Sweet Biscuit category: First place, Goldie O’Quinn; second place, Tina Barkley with a “Chocolate Chip” biscuit; and third place, Jean McClure with the “Spicy Pumpkin.”
Back at the Roadkill Cook-Off, Miss West Virginia Roadkill Ava Collar and Little Miss West Virginia Roadkill Rachel Felton were busy with the opening ceremony for the tastings prepared by nearly a dozen cooks.
A yellow wristband bought the way into lines of people waiting to taste dishes such as the “Tortoise & Hare,” a spicy tomato-based sauce featuring wild snapping turtle or the meat concoction of “Bear, Boar and Bambi” offered up by the Hillsboro Hillbillies.
“T’Ain’t EZ Bein Green,” prepared by Arlene Carr of Meadowbridge, West Virginia, and Alicia Kuhn of Coldwell, West Virginia, pulled in both the People’s Choice Award and second place overall with their “Rest in Bits & Pieces,” a meatball featuring a combination of venison, pheasant, duck, quail and pork. The meatball was buried under a “green pasture” sauce of cilantro, chile, golden raisins, ginger and mint.
Not all dishes were on the “far right of wild side.” Doug Honnor of Marlinton made a tasty “Mountain Mama” venison chili and my favorite, the “Riveter Trio” from Fenwick, West Virginia, served up a nice venison pot pie.
First place overall winners were Patrick and Anne Mitchell from Fairfax, Virginia, with their offering, “East Meets West Virginia.”
Third place overall went to “You Hit’Em, We Spit’Em.” The dish, called “I Wanna Iguana Nachos,” was created by Cher Megasko and Greg Todd of Chartottesville, Virginia.
The showmanship award went to the Coal Hollow Brothers from Christianburg, Virginia, who offered a spectacular display featuring coal-fired trains and charcoal-fired dried venison.
According to Wilfong, each cooking team received a $100 participation award, with free registration.
“First place received $1,200, second place $600 and third place, $300,” Wilmoth explained. “The People’s Choice and Showmanship award both received $150 each and the experience and fun for all – priceless!”