BBQ event to honor alumnus, donor

The second annual “Shotgun” Fred Barbecue Showdown will take place today and continue throughout the weekend at the Walker County Fairgrounds in honor of the late Sam Houston State University alumnus, Fred Pirkle.

Courtesy: Sydney Paige

Courtesy: Sydney Paige

The event which hosts cooks who have competed in television shows like Pit Master and other barbecue cook-offs like American Royal and Jack Daniels, recently became an official qualifying event of the World Food Championships.

The weekend will include competitions for both adults and children, a backyard barbecue cooking class and the Texas original pit raffle.

Contest organizer Ben Pruitt said last year the event had 38 total teams. This year, he is expecting roughly 65 teams and at least 2,000 visiting patrons. Pruitt said that some of the entries are composed of SHSU students, faculty and staff members.

“Persons attending this cook off will see some of the finest barbecue cookers in America competing,” Pruitt said. “At present we have four or five barbecue cooking teams made up of students at SHSU. We have one team that is associated with university staff.”

Pirkle received his Bachelor of Arts and Masters in Industrial Technology from SHSU and soon after began funding a scholarship endowment for students at SHSU.

“Fred realized he wanted more out of life than what he was doing to make a living,” Pruitt said in a document he shared with The Houstonian. “He began to look for a college he could attend that would give him the knowledge he needed to reach his goals in life. His search lead him to Sam Houston State University.”

With his education, Pirkle went on to own his own company, Thermo Omega Tech, which primarily manufactures temperature control valves. However, Pirkle was able transpose his industrial skills into his love of barbecue by inventing a line of products called “The Barbeque Guru.”

“Fred realized that his success came from the years that he spent at SHSU getting his BA and MA in Industrial Arts (later known as Industrial Technology) and for his professors who taught him his the skills and knowledge that provided the tools to make it happen,” Pruitt said in a document he shared with The Houstonian.

On March 9, 2012, Pirkle passed away from ALS but not before asking his friends to begin an annual Kansas City Barbecue Society sanctioned barbecue cook-off to continue funding his namesake’s endowment throughout the years. The endowment totals $25 million and will fund tuition and books for approximately 80 engineering technology students per year.

In addition to his barbecue legacy and endowment fund, Pirkle will be leaving an even bigger mark on the SHSU campus with the recently approved Fred Pirkle Engineering Technology Center to be erected in the years to come.

“This was part of his commitment to SHSU,” Pruitt said. “To date, I have not seen any of the design of the building but I do know that he wanted the building to look different from any buildings on the campus. He wanted it to be contemporary design.”
For a complete list of this weekend’s events, visit


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