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MCFA Barbecue winners embrace fair family

April 14, 2017 GMT

The 2017 Montgomery County Fair Association’s 60th anniversary barbecue cook-off winners celebrated not only a win, but the family who makes it possible - including the husband of a late Montgomery ISD teacher.

Overall Grand Champion 1484 Front Porch Cookers and Reserve Grand Champion Majick Smokers embraced each other at the end of the tough competition featuring 147 teams, with the top 10 places awarded for chicken, ribs, pork and brisket. It was the third year for the grand champs from Cut and Shoot to show their stuff at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds.

“We love to cook,” said head cook Brian Yates. “There is nothing fancy to it. We just thank Conroe and Montgomery County. We’re a family and it’s a team win for sure.”

It’s only the second time for Conroe resident Erik Reissig, 37, to ever cook brisket in his life. His first attempt was for family two months ago who encouraged him to compete. He earned first placed in the category for Cooking for a Cause.


Three years ago the combined team of cooks for Cadillac Kids and Cooking for a Cause began donating proceeds to a fellow teammates toddler who was battling liver cancer. The child, Max, is cancer-free today and the team has since helped about four local families with an estimated $8,000. But in November 2016, Max’s father, Bobby Westmoreland, died in a car crash with an 18-wheeler on Texas 105 – two days before his 30th birthday.

This year, the team felt the loss of their brother, who also owned Scooters, Lifts, and More, and decided to donate the proceeds to his family.

“I can’t believe my second brisket in my whole life won,” Reissig said. “This year was definitely for Bobby. We dedicate this to him and his family.”

In the middle of the crowd, a man in a cowboy hat with a wedding ring hanging around his neck held a glass that read “live, laugh, love.” Joe Runnels raised the glass in the air as the Runnels Rowdy Cookers were announced as the third-place winner for pork. The announcer made a joke about the glass, and the two hugged. The crowd applauded.

It’s about 10 years since Runnels, 44, has won a cook-off award. He grew up in Montgomery County and has been participating in the fair since he was about 4 years old with his family.

“Last year was the best year,” Runnels said. “My wife, kids and family were all here. I ain’t got friends. I’ve got family. That’s why we’re here.”

Runnels paused. It’s a difficult conversation.

On Feb. 15, his late wife, Jenny Runnels, a Lone Star Elementary School fourth-grade teacher, died in a head-on collision on FM 2854 days before her birthday. The crash also killed the other driver at the scene, Floyd Nelms Jr., 31, of Conroe. The Runnels’ daughter, Callie, 10, was released from Texas Children’s Hospital in March.

On Saturday, she rode on a scooter having a good time at the fair and gave her father a thumbs up for the win.


“My wife had a lot of good sayings and a lot of signs in our house,” Runnels said. ”... One of those is ‘live, laugh, love – every chance you get as much as you can.’”

He felt it’s important to continue the family tradition and pointed to his cook-off team at the fair and in the county he calls family.

″... The love, support and prayers have been overwhelming,” he said. “We thank and love each person. We try to love and pray and keep stepping forward every day.”

Top Barbecue Cook-Off Teams

Overall Grand Champion- 1484 Front Porch Cookers

Reserve Grand Champion- Majick Smokers

First Place Brisket- Cooking for a Cause

First Place Pulled Pork- We B Smokin

First Place Ribs-Texas Cookers