EDINBURG — The combined scents of gasoline, gunpowder and grilled meat filled the air with the aid of the fresh breeze as Edinburg celebrated the Fourth of July with its 15th annual Texas Cook’Em competition here at Ebony Hills Golf Course.

Teams from all across Texas participated to compete this year for a purse awarding the winners $16,000, and a year’s worth of bragging rights.

Canopies, travel trailers, RVs and an assorted variety of grills lined the makeshift walkways of the main event as the competitors and their family and friends began to cook as early as 8 a.m.

Contestants battled it out on the grill and were judged based on their best rib-eye, chicken, ribs and pork brisket.

In the end, the Texas Cook’Em overall grand championship went to Santiago Bernal of SPGs Deep South Bbq, according to the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.

Just east of the meat enthusiasts gathering was another assembly for a different kind of hobby, where the chamber was also hosting a custom truck, hot rod and car show as well.

Souped up sports cars, trucks and motorcycles filled Teleperformance’s parking lot as owners prepared their vehicles to be seen, admired and judged.

The car show’s award categories consisted of Best Paint Job, Best Engine, Best of Show Truck and Best of Show Car.

Multiple Dodge vehicles lined up on full display ready for onlookers to observe and judges to rate at Texas Cook’ Em: High Steaks Truck and Car show in Edinburg on July 4, 2021. (Xavier Alvarez | The Monitor)

The food and fun were a welcome return for attendees after the COVID-19 pandemic rendered in-person events canceled or postponed last year, including the Cook’Em.

As COVID-19 vaccinations continue to be administered, however, more in-person events have been held as of late, especially since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that fully vaccinated individuals can be outside without the protection of a face mask.

Place 1 Justice of the Peace Charlie Espinoza, of Precinct 4, simply enjoyed being a part of the event.

“Last year we didn’t have any [car shows] even though we normally try to have one every year,” said Espinoza, who was asked by the chamber to help with the event. “But this year looks good even though it’s a hot day.”

Jay Hernandez, left, and Mark Gonzalez, right, of Team Smoke Daddyz check the temperature on some of their meat on the grill at the 15th annual Texas Cook’ Em: High Steaks competition in Edinburg on Sunday July 4, 2021. (Xavier Alvarez | The Monitor)

Temperatures remained in the 90s though it felt more like 105 degrees.

The rising heat didn’t stop people from celebrating the Fourth of July.

Plenty of vendors such as Graze Box Co., Style + Grace and La Morenita Baker had their canopies perched up and ready to make some sales from their clothing and baked goods.

West of the field of grills and next to the carnival rides for kids was a halfpipe, ramps and kickers ready to be performed on by the BMX Pro Trick Team for event attendees.

Opposite the BMX area was the main stage where musical performances by Five Star Party Band, Gabe Garcia, the Def Leppard tribute band Def Leggend and the headliner and, American Country Award winner, Easton Corbin were held later that evening.

The day’s events were topped off by the fireworks show expected prior to Corbin’s performance.

“I think it’s great that a lot more people feel safer, especially with the vaccines,” McAllen resident Jennifer Mendoza, who was in attendance at the event, said. “It’s great to have a social event with everyone participating and just to have everyone come out, get together and celebrate Independence Day.”

When asked if she was vaccinated, Mendoza responded with “not yet, but I plan to” to which her friend enthusiastically shouted, “I am.”

Despite the more relaxed nature of the event, there were still plenty of attendees protecting themselves with face masks.

[email protected]