Martha Snyder believes the more events that take place in White Sulphur Springs in Greenbrier County, the better. The more people who know of the quaint little town, the more they’ll bring in others for events — even if those events are as unique as a wild game cook-off.
White Sulphur Springs Main Street, the White Sulphur Springs Farmers Market, and the White Sulphur Springs Wish Center celebrated their seventh annual Wild Game Cook-Off Saturday by serving up dishes to the public featuring, you guessed it, wild game.
A heat wave had taken over much of southern West Virginia since the official fall season began; however, that wave finally diminished Saturday, allowing the town of White Sulphur Springs to enjoy a brisk 55-degree weather.
Jeans, flannels, boots, camouflage, and hats were sported at the event, paired with dishes like pheasant pot pie — a perfect fall combination.
“Every year this event just grows bigger and bigger,” Snyder, a member of White Sulphur Springs Main Street and director of the White Sulphur Springs Wish Center, said. “As we continue to grow, I feel this event will eventually bring in people from all across the state to this area, just to eat dishes like this.”
Snyder was serving up heaping spoonfuls of hot venison stew, one of the most popular dishes at Saturday’s event. Venison is a meat from deer — a popular dish in Appalachia.
“We’re in West Virginia; that’s what makes this event so popular,” she added. “I’m sure it wouldn’t be huge in other, certain states, but it’s won people over here. People might think the dishes are a little odd, but once you try them, you’re surprised. You wouldn’t even know, they’re really good.”
Local businesses competed by cooking up a dish using some sort of wild game, including braised venison osso bucco tacos and pickled-ramp green tomato salsa verde from The Greenbrier, a pheasant pot pie from the Greenbrier Sporting Club, red stag stew from Road Hog’s Barbeque, venison stew from 50 East, and high country venison stroganoff made by a local, Mark Anderson.
Sarah Skelding, of Lewisburg, sat with her two young daughters. All three had samples of every dish on their plate, filtering through, trying each, and discussing which one was their favorite.
“I think we’ve all decided the tacos are our favorite,” Skelding said. “It’s an interesting take on a food everyone already loves.”
Having an event, especially one as interesting as a wild game cook-off, is a unique way to bring people together, Skelding said. She said if there’s one thing that always brings people, it’s food, no matter how different they are.
“Plus, it finally feels like fall. People are wanting to get out and enjoy this kind of weather, and it’s just something really fun to bring your family to on a Saturday.”
Those who attended were able to receive samples of each dish, and also try some beer on tap from the Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company. After getting their bellies full, people had the chance to vote for their favorite dish — the People’s Choice Award. Another set of judges was judging for the Chef’s Choice Award.
Caleb Arwood sported large, dark blue denim overalls, and a large green trucker hat sat atop his head. He dumped large spoonfuls of red stag stew into cups.
A stag is a male deer, explained Arwood, who’s the head pit master at Road Hog’s Barbeque in White Sulphur Springs, set to open its doors in late October or early November.
“We heard there was going to be a wild game cook-off, and we knew there was no doubt we had to be a part of it, even if we aren’t officially opened yet,” he said, laughingly. “We chose red stag, because, well, we wanted to win.”
Arwood said although the event is based on friendly competition, it’s not really about that, but rather a way to bring the community together.
“I think you always have to think of the people and the town you live in. You want to make sure your locals have a reason to come out and participate in community events. Things like this are just fun,” he said. “Beats sitting at home, piled in front of a TV.”
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