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Twelve years of cheeseburgers in Friona

The 12th Annual Cheeseburger Festival will be held Saturday, July 15 at the Friona City Park and is hosted by the Friona Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture.

If you have ever wondered how Friona became the Cheeseburger Capital, it is simple. The Chamber Board of Directors were discussing the fact that Friona is in the middle of beef, wheat and dairy country, and decided to see if they could promote Friona by using local products. All of the elements came together to form the Cheeseburger Festival and Cook-off.

Friona is located in an area with over 40 cattle feeding operations within a 50-mile radius, 15 dairies ranking 1st in the state for milk production, and approximately 140,000 acres of wheat planted in Parmer County, with three local grain elevators taking in the wheat. Cargill Meat Solutions is located on Highway 60 west of Friona and processes over 2,000,000 head of cattle annually. There are two cheese plants within 100 miles of Friona: Southwest Cheese in Clovis, NM and Hilmar Cheese in Dalhart. Both facilities have a combined daily production of approximately 1,000,000 pounds of cheese daily. To top those cheeseburgers, Best Maid Pickle products are grown in the Plainview area.

The first Cheeseburger Festival & Cook-off was held in July 2006 with Representative Warren Chisum in attendance. He suggested the idea of getting the general public to write letters (over 300) to him to have Friona designated at the Cheeseburger Capital of Texas. Letters were also written to Senator Kel Seliger and Governor Rick Perry asking for assistance in this endeavor.

The fourteen teams competing in the first cheeseburger cook-off were Cargill Meat Solutions; High Ground of Texas; The Eagle’s Nest from Levelland; Cargill Carnivores; Too Hot To Handle-Friona Home Health; Friona Christian Ministries; LookinGrills team; Burger Dolls-Friona Police Department ladies; Friona Banking Center; Wal-Mart; Team Oller from Oller Engineering; Friona State Bank; and the Underwood Law Firm.

The first place winner in 2006 was Cargill Meat Solutions, proving they not only know how to package meat, they now how to cook it. The top prize was $500 and Cargill donated the prize money to the Friona United Way.

Second place went to High Ground of Texas with four cooks from four cities: Stratford, Muleshoe, Canyon and Wolfforth. The prize was $300.

Third place of $100 went to The Eagle’s Nest.

The Best Dressed Camp Site of 2006 went to the LookinGrills team of Loren and Stormi Lookingbill, Shara Lookingbill, Kelly and Tonya Lookingbill, and Amber Roberson. They also served up grilled corn on the cob in the shuck.

During the 2007 Legislature, the bill was presented and in June 2007, Gov. Perry officially designated Friona as the “Cheeseburger Capital of Texas.”

Three teams hold the honored designation of having competed every year. Those teams are First National Bank, Cargill Meat Solutions and Underwood Law Firm. First National Bank won first place in 2009 and People’s Choice in 2015. Cargill Meat Solutions won first place in 2006 and third place in 2007. Underwood Law Firm won second place in 2016.

Teams from Lubbock, Levelland, Stratford, Muleshoe, Canyon, Wolfforth, and Clovis are among the contestants throughout the 12-year history of the festival.

Taking home first place honors over the years were: Cargill Meat Solutions, CHS of Friona, Tasty Cream, First National Bank, Hot Mamas, Atmos Energy, Xcel Energy, and Parmer Medical Center.

First place honors went home at least twice with Hot Mamas, Xcel Energy and Atmos Energy.

The People’s Choice award has been awarded to First Baptist Young Adults, First Baptist Youth Group, Friona State Bank, Chuck Wagon Grill Gang, First National Bank and Southwest Cheese of Clovis.

The competition is not limited to businesses or organizations. There have been families that competed. Those include: the Donnie Lewellen family, the Choate family, Burger Dolls, the LookinGrills (Lookingbills) and the Hot Mamas to name just a few.

Adding to the enjoyment of the cheeseburgers is the Friona Noon Lions and their World Famous French Fries. The Lions start as early as the contestants getting fries ready for the hungry crowds that attend the festival each year and they never disappoint.

Entertainment has varied throughout the years from Pokey the Clown to live entertainment to DJs. Vendors have also added to the atmosphere of the festival by offering great buys on everything from t-shirts to cotton candy.

This year there are ten teams vying for the coveted Cheeseburger trophy. Teams competing this year are: Street Auto Group, Xcel Energy, First National Bank, Cargill, Underwood Law Firm, Southwest Cheese “The Bolds”, TB (square), FISD Football Coaches “BIG RED”, Whiteface Ford “Patty Daddies” and High Plains Farms.

Festival attendees will get to help the Action for an Ambulance Fund by giving $1 as a vote for the People’s Choice Award and playing Cow Patty Bingo.

The DJ entertainment this year will be Jack Light.

The festival is held each year on the third Saturday of July at the Friona City Park and everyone is invited to come out and savor the atmosphere of Friona “The Cheeseburger Capital of Texas”.