Tilman, Slim Thug and the Mayor Turn Out for Cotton’s Big, Rich Cook-Off Bash

Tilman, Slim Thug and the Mayor Turn Out for Cotton’s Big, Rich Cook-Off Bash

Jerod and Madison Durst, Bailey Bell, Hayden Layne

PER THE FABULOUS annual tradition, Cotton Holdings and its founder, Pete Bell, opened Rodeo season in lavish style with its VIP bash at the 50th Annual World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest, also known simply as “Cook-Off.” The food-and-drink-savvy festival-within-a-festival, which kicks off the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, draws cowboys and cowgirls in designer duds — think denim and diamonds and perfectly fitted Stetsons — for raucously good fun.


Cotton, once again the Cook-Off title sponsor, called its fancy digs the Cotton ’Q Club. The outfit, a leading disaster and infrastructure support services company headquartered in Houston, welcomed some 2,000 guests over the three nights of Cook-Off, with a special event on the first evening featuring a performance by superstar country acts Big & Rich, whose extended rendition of “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” brought the house down. The “Redneck Woman” herself, Gretchen Wilson, also took the stage, as did young country heartthrob William Beckmann of Del Rio, just 24 years old, who crooned in both English and Spanish.

The environs were, as ever, over the top. “More than 10,000 gold, hand-painted roses by Flora & Eventi filled the Cotton ’Q Club to mark the milestone anniversary of the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest,” noted a Cotton rep. “The navy fabric draped ceilings, antler and crystal chandeliers, mounted taxidermy from … Bell’s ranch, and three iconic seven-foot-tall mosaic horses with cascading rose saddles all returned for the third year.” Even more cowboy-style glam was to be found in the V-VIP Gold Pony Lounge behind the stage, where caviar and bubbly awaited a small, handpicked posse.

The main menu at ’Q was extravagant and award-winning. The Cotton Culinary team’s “Duck Duck Crunch,” which took second-place honors at this year’s Rodeo Uncorked! Roundup & Best Bites Competition, was a highlight of Executive Chef Wade Schindler’s voluptuous vittles. Also on offer: Angus Ribeye with Chimichurri and Bacon Bearnaise Sauce, Pecan Smoked Pulled Brisket Tacos, Cotton Brie Balls with Peach Bourbon Chutney, Pepper Chicken Bites with Whistlepig Whiskey Glaze, and Hickory Smoked BBQ Brisket.

Notable guests included Duke Austin, CEO of Quanta Services, who joined Bell onstage on opening night to welcome the crowd. Also on hand were Mayor John Whitmire, Tilman Fertitta, Cal McNair and Hannah McNair, rapper Slim Thug, Andre Johnson, Najee Harris, Hallie Vanderhider, Alicia Maguire Smith, Tony Bradfield, Frank Billingsley, Kevin Gilliard, Chita and Lane Craft, Deborah Duncan, Derrick Shore, Brandon Bourque, Fady Armanious, Shelley Taylor, Heather Almond and Rodeo honchos Chris Boleman, Pat Mann Phillips and Lisa Schutzenhofer.

Pete Bell, Zinat Ahmed, Hannah McNair, Cal McNair, Slim Thug

Lauren and Tilman Fertitta

Amy Birdwell and Jenci Bice

Cotton Holdings CEO Pete Bell, Mayor John Whitmire, Quanta Services CEO Duke Austin

Pittsburgh Steelers Running Back Najee Harris with Zinat Ahmed

Country music band Big & Rich performing

Fady Armanious and Tony Bradfield

Kevin Fowler, Melysa and Bryan Michalsky

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