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Western Heritage Classic hosts cook-off for the 'lost art' of chuck wagon cooking

In a time where using microwaves and Crock-Pots are the new norms, some people spend all year looking forward to eating some traditionally-prepared food at the Western Heritage Classic.

Leonna Adkins said that cooking from a chuck wagon has become a lost art.

"Back in the 1800s, in the 1900s, that was a way of life. A way of country life," Adkins said. "You burn a lot of biscuits in the wind, but you feed a lot of great people."

Adkins is a hairdresser by day in Abilene, but most people would not have noticed that on Saturday as she wore her apron and visor.

Adkins and her husband were the host wagon for the Western Heritage Classic and were given the responsibility of feeding the 300 people with sponsor tickets.

The other chuck wagons on Saturday were busy preparing for the cook-off, with one of them traveling from as far away as Kansas to compete.

Each chuck wagon participating in the cook-off was required to serve chicken fried steak, beans, potatoes, bread and peach cobbler and people were able to purchase a plate of food for $15.

Adkins said that cooking with a chuck wagon is a family tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation.

"Most people, they get money or land, well in our family, they get a cast iron [skillet]," Adkins said.

Wilbur Wilson has 28 years under his belt cooking on a chuck wagon and 12 years ago, he bought his very own chuck wagon, which he named Breakaway, to travel and compete around the southwestern United States.

"One of our Aussie friends said, 'so you're going to breakaway.' And he said, 'that would be a good name for it,'" Wilson said.

Wilson said that he loves how his peers are so generous with sharing their cooking ideas.

Wilson even picked up a few things to help make his food more authentic in comparison to the Cattle Drive Era, which is what the cook-off's judges search for in naming a winner.

"I like to keep my chicken fried steak as cold as I can until I start to fry it," Wilson said. "It just makes a little bit of difference."

Wilson said that he does not cook to win prizes, but rather so that people can enjoy eating good traditional foods.

The Western Heritage Classic ends on Sunday with a Cowboy Church Service taking place at 9:30 a.m.

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