Marathon’s West Fest Cabrito Cookoff

By Cactus Jane

Perfectly seasoned and tender pit roasted cabrito, juicy fall-off-the-bone ribs, smoky brisket, traditional and prickly pear margaritas, peach cobbler, rasberry apple cobbler, and any other dutchoven baked dessert imaginable, plus so much salsa for the tasting … Is your mouth watering yet?

It’s a casual atmosphere of fun and food at West Fest every year where crowds gather to hear the winners and listen to the bands.

Every September, Marathon holds it’s annual cabrito cook-off at Peña Post Park –  a very casual affair, exploding with delicious food.

Each year, pit masters settle in for a day of competitive cooking with family and friends. It’s a local tradition to spend the day nomming on great barbecue and ringing in the fall season. It’s best to bring a chair and get there early – different dishes are cooked up throughout the day, and trust me, you’ll want to try all of them. These are the real experts in the region, and they cook up some of the best barbecue you’ll get to sample. Some contestants have family foodie rivalries that span generations, and the annual cabrito cook-off is a chance to defend their family honor. There is no shortage of competitive glances and ambitious boasting between camps. But even though the stakes are high, it’s all in good fun and for a good cause.

It’s a family friendly competition, and Annabel Carrasco, James Roberts, and Esequiel Carrasco, of Marathon, competed with entries of pit cabrito, brisket, dutchoven desert and salsa.

The chefs aren’t shy – they will let visitors – complete strangers even – grab a plate and fill up on what they’ve made, and all for free. They are rightfully proud of their fares. Bands play throughout the day, and the event ends with a big dance. There is an art auction, and all proceeds go to help the Marathon Volunteer Fire Department.

Marathon artist George Zupp makes art about regional events, including last year’s infamous “burnt beans” entry at West Fest.

It’s easy to become a judge of the event, as long as you haven’t tried any of the food until it’s time to actually judge it. For instance, if you want to judge margaritas don’t make the mistake of trying them out at various camps first (like I did), or it will disqualify you from judging due to possible bias. It’s lots of fun to judge, because you get to try everything people make for each category, laid out nicely in matching Styrofoam containers at the judging table. And you can make new friends as you debate the merits of each dish.

All the entries are lined up at the judge’s table.

The large layout of the park provides plenty of room for kids to run around and play. Kids play football, rivercane sword fighting, and good old fashioned tag, and the inflatable slide turns into a makeshift rollercoaster. Adults busy themselves with horseshoes, washers, and dancing on the dance floor. There is plenty of lounging around to do, too.

It’s easy to make friends at West Fest, and after one visit, you’ll want to make it a yearly tradition, too!

Area children come out to see old friends and make new ones.

2018 date TBD – please visit here for updates:

Event Location Information:

Post Park, also called Peña Colorado or simply “The Post”, is a county-operated Park that has a unique history. It’s nestled between outcrops of the folded and contorted Caballos Novaculite rock cliffs, and is well shaded by grand cottonwood trees.

The park started in 1879 as a military outpost to protect the interests of the railroad, and lasted as such for about 14 years. In 1935, the Combs family donated the land that is now open to the public as a county park. People enjoy it today for one of the same reasons it was important then: it has abundant water. A spring-fed pond attracts a variety of birds, and there are resident ducks year-round. It’s a popular place for folks to throw a line.

The park never closes, the county just asks that people be considerate. Pick up behind their dogs, use the trash cans, things like that. The park has well-maintained restroom facilities, lush green grass, tall trees, picnic tables and grills – all the ingredients for a great family outing – and that’s why it’s perfect for West Fest, Marathon’s Fourth of July celebration, and many other events throughout the year. The park follows county burn ban rules, though charcoal grilling is always allowed.

The park makes an interesting place to contemplate history. Under the storied canopy of cottonwood trees, it’s easy to imagine days gone by, according to Alpine historian Matt Walter, who frequents the park to fish. “I love the Post because I can practice my fly-fishing, with the chance of actually catching something, while surrounded by West Texas beauty. And I like imagining that some Buffalo Soldiers – including the two who are still buried there – may have fished there also,” Walter said.