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Western entertainers and chuck wagon cookoff are features of Pigeon Forge Saddle Up

saddle up pigeon forge
Saddle Up features concerts by top cowboy and cowgirl musicians. Left: T. Scot Wilburn (guitar), right: Andrew Wilson (fiddle)

kent rollins
Award-winning chuck wagon cook Kent Rollins will be in Pigeon Forge during Saddle Up. He and his Red River Ranch team will be at the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge and serving samples of cornbread at the Pottery House Café on Wednesday, Feb. 19, noon-1:30 p.m.

In addition to running a successful catering business and feeding cowboys on working ranches, Rollins has been featured on Food Network shows, including Throwdown! with Bobby Flay, Chopped Grill Masters and Chopped Redemption.

The following recipe is one Rollins often cooks in a Dutch oven over an open fire, but it easily can be prepared in a traditional kitchen oven.

Creamy Rice Bake with Black Beans

2 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped poblano pepper
2 cups cooked white rice (1 cup uncooked)
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained, rinsed
1 (10.5 oz.) can cream of celery soup concentrate
1/4 cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to 3500 F. Grease an 8-x-11-inch casserole dish.
2. In a large skillet, melt the butter and cook the onion and peppers, stirring over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until tender. Remove from the heat and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine the cooked rice, beans and pepper mixture.
4. Stir in the cream of celery soup and milk.
5. Put into casserole dish and bake for approximately 25 minutes until the dish is hot. Serve warm.

Tip: This dish can be served warm, but stick it in the icebox overnight, and it’s a tasty chilled leftover.


PIGEON FORGE, TN — A popular event in Pigeon Forge kicks off on Feb. 19. The 14th annual Saddle Up, hosted by the City of Pigeon Forge, is a five-day tribute to the American West. Running through Feb. 23, the event will feature concerts by top cowboy and cowgirl musicians and poets, a chuck wagon cook off, and other western-themed activities. This family friendly event will take place in various locations throughout the city.

Performers for 2014 are Don Edwards, Red Steagall and the Boys in the Bunkhouse, Hot Club of Cowtown, Belinda Gail, Andy Nelson, Ray Doyle, T. Scot Wilburn and the Shut Up -N- Playboys, and Joyce Woodson. Concerts at the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge (3 & 7 p.m. on Feb. 21; 6 p.m. on Feb. 22) are $20 plus tax per person. A concert pass, good for all three shows, is available for $55 plus tax.

“Stories & Strings,” Feb. 21, will feature performances by a select group of Saddle Up musicians sharing favorite tunes and stories. Tickets for the noon concert at Smoky Mountain Guitar Shop are $20 plus tax.

A chuck wagon cookoff, sponsored by the Pigeon Forge Hospitality Association, takes place Saturday, Feb. 22, at Clabough’s Campground on Wears Valley Road and is preceded by the Buckeroo Roundup, with a number of family friendly activities that lead up to the cowboy-style lunch. Admission to the Buckeroo Roundup is free. Chuck wagon cooks prepare lunch for guests and evaluation by a panel of judges. Tickets for the noon luncheon are $12.50. Beginning at 9 a.m., visitors can hear cowboy entertainers and participate in cowboy-themed activities free of charge.

Authentic chuck wagons will travel to Pigeon Forge to compete for prize money. Once the judging is complete, lunch will be available for $12.50 per plate and served from individual wagons.

Seven teams and wagons will travel to Pigeon Forge from five states. Visitors can choose lunch from wagons bearing names like Cowboy Cookin’, Double X Ranch, Skillet & Spurs, JL Cattle Company, Ramblin’ Rose, Greenhorn Cattle Company and Circle L Chuckwagon.

Tickets may be purchased in advance at Remaining tickets will be sold onsite the day of the cookoff. More than 600 meals were served in 2013.

Each chuck wagon team will prepare chicken-fried steaks, potatoes, beans, bread, cornbread and a dessert. They are judged on individual food categories and on the authenticity of wagons and camp set-ups. Winners will be announced Saturday afternoon, prior to the 6 p.m. concert at the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge.

A Cowboy Dance ($5), with music by T. Scot Wilburn and the Shut Up -N- Playboys, is Saturday night at the LeConte Event Center. The weekend wraps up with a chuck wagon breakfast ($5) beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the LeConte Event Center, followed by Cowboy Church at Stages West. Cowboy Church is free. The award-winning event is highlighted by western music and cowboy poetry concerts and much more to celebrate the American West. More than 300 people gather to worship amidst the boots, hats and Western apparel. The faith-based Cowboy Church is a popular segment of Saddle Up, now in its 14th year. As is tradition, this year’s Saddle Up Cowboy Church will feature performances by several event entertainers.

In the cowboy culture, cowboy churches typically are local Christian churches that have a distinct Western heritage. It’s not unusual for cowboy churches to make use of barns or covered arenas where western events like rodeos might take place on weeknights. Stages West is located at 2165 Parkway in Pigeon Forge. The service begins at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, February 23.

A detailed schedule of all Saddle Up activities and event tickets are available at

Published February 15, 2014

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