The judges have spoken and the name they said was Richard Wade for the second year in a row.

Fourteen teams competed in the 16th annual Eastpoint Volunteer Fire Department Rib Cook-off Saturday. Wade said he believed this is the second largest field ever. This was his 13th year in the cook-off, and he said he recalls one year when 16 teams competed.

“It’s always a surprise when you win,” He said. “This year there was some stiff competition. There were several teams from Georgia and teams from surrounding counties; a lot more out-of-towners. I’m happy I could keep the trophy in Franklin County.”

Wade said his secret is many years of cooking experience. He has six first-place trophies displayed over his meat case at the Big Top Supermarket.

“I try to sample everybody’s ribs when I compete to see how I stack up,” he said. “Some competitors choose not to cut (their ribs) down to St. Louis-style ribs. With a bigger piece of meat you have to cook them longer and it affects what you get. A real competitor will cut them down.”

Second place this year went to Bert and Michele Hicks, “Team Joined at the Rib” who said they decided to enter the night before the competition. Bert Hicks may have signed up late but he is no stranger to cooking competitions.

There were two teams in field bearing the mimicker “Cooking Ash.” The local team, captained by Scott Payne and sponsored by 2k Web Group, took third place in the competition.

The other “Kickin’ Ash” team was Mickey Newman and stepson Mike McPherson out of Newman, Georgia who are staying in Bayshore Trailer Park in Eastpoint. Newman said they have been coming to Bayshore for 30 years.

The trailer park was also represented by a second team, the Bayshore Porkers. Newman said cooking in the competition is a tradition among park residents and the leftovers from the day’s grilling are shared with the other residents at a party held in the evening.

Honorable mention went to another out-of-county competitor, Crumbie’s Smoke Crew from Bristol.

Inglorious Basters, Karl Lucy and Jim Joyner won best rig for their portable BBQ shack.

The People’s Choice Award goes to the team that raises the most money for the fire department through independent sales. Inglorious Basters took second place in that category with $490. First place went to Team 10-4 captained by John Solomon who was aided by David Varnes and County Attorney Michael Shuler who described himself as the “Sue Chef.” Team 10-4 raised $764.

Fire Chief George Pruett, pivotal in organizing the fundraiser each year, said he was very pleased. The weather was perfect. The firefighters cooked and served 1,320 pounds of ribs; 400 pounds of Boston butt and 250 pounds of chicken served with slaw and signature baked beans prepared with bacon and pulled pork. The side dishes ran out before all of the meat was served but very little was left.

Pruett said every penny of money raised by the event goes to the fire department. “The cook-off keeps growing every year,” he said. “This year we have hot water.”

He also proudly displayed a “hybrid cooker” which he said was created by the inmates at the Franklin Correctional Institute. “It cost $7,000 but it would have cost $20,000,” Pruett said, “It was an investment we needed to make. It can cook 12 cases of ribs at once.”

Ronnie Segree, the Runes, and Despite the Irony provided live music throughout the event and there was an enormous bouncy castle provided to the delight of young visitors.

The final tally is not in but Pruett expects to clear more than $18,000 on this year’s event. “I am humbled and full of thanks for everybody who contributed,” he said.