Ascension Parish is in full swing gearing up for the annual Ascension Hot Air Balloon Festival held in late September. Festival meetings are being held twice a month to discuss everything from this years musical lineup to the anticipated hot air balloons to the barbecue competition.

This year's event will see a change to the cook-off as the Barbecue Competitors Alliance (BCA) will be spearheading the competition. Previously, it was not sanctioned by any association such as the BCA but by the festival organizers. Cook-off chairmen Rodney Dupuy and Ken Firmin are hoping that with the new regulations and guidelines by the BCA, it will bring dozens of cooks throughout the state to the festival.

"It's well organized and they bring the same set of rules to every event so competitors know what to expect in the judging and all," Firmin said.

In addition to the brisket, chicken and ribs categories, there will also be a steak competition on Friday, a new category brought to the festival for the first time. Firmin said steak cook-offs are a fairly new category being done and it is just starting to catch on in the south

The barbecue competition will be held both days of the event. Friday night will be the steak cook-off, which is a $125 entry fee, followed by the pork spare ribs, half chicken and brisket on Saturday. The entry fee for ribs is $50, $100 for chicken and $125 for brisket. Cooks are responsible for supplying their own meat, though the steaks will be provided by Lamar-Dixon Expo Center.

Dupuy said they are hoping to get anywhere from 30 to 50 cooks and are confident they will be able to get a good turnout because there is no other cook-off in the area on that weekend sanctioned by the BCA.

Cash prizes for the top five placings will be paid out on both Friday and Saturday, though the amounts are yet to be determined until enough cooks have signed up. The chairmen noted that because of the four different categories, they will need about 100 judges.

For more information about the competition, or to register, email or or call or text Ken Firmin at (225) 933-8960.