Colorado History

Hold Your Horses: A Slopper-Eating Contest at the State Fair?

Hold Your Horses: A Slopper-Eating Contest at the State Fair?
Colorado State Fair
Eating is a major attraction at the Colorado State Fair, where you can grab a spicy Super Pass Key sausage sandwich, which is a Pueblo specialty, or almost anything on a stick: pork chops, chocolate-covered strawberries and corn dogs, of course.

But not sloppers, even though they're another specialty native to Pueblo, home of the fair.

Food contests are also major attractions at the Colorado State Fair, whether competitors are showing off their homemade jam or attempting to down a record number of pastries. And this weekend, a new contest will give a hometown hero its due: The Colorado State Fair, along with Colorado Proud, is hosting the 2019 World Slopper Eating Championship, an official event sanctioned by Major League Eating, at 3 p.m. on August 31.

As Major League Eating notes, "This local delicacy features a cheeseburger lovingly smothered — slopped, really — in delicious green chili. Utensils will not be provided. Paper towel will be. Maybe bring a Wet-Nap."

The slopper at Gray's Coors Tavern. - WESTWORD
The slopper at Gray's Coors Tavern.
Westword
Pueblo has several culinary claims to fame (including that Pass Key sandwich), but none bigger than the slopper, which landed on the foodie map after a Food Wars story on the Travel Channel in 2010 featured Gray's Coors Tavern, a Pueblo watering hole credited with inventing the dish in the ’50s. The Gray's recipe is simple: two grilled burger patties, with American cheese, served open-faced on a bun in a bowl — then smothered with either housemade green chile or red (more of a con carne than a New Mexican red), or both for an early Christmas, with the option of onions and even French fries on top.

We've been assured that there will be no French fries on the sloppers served to contestants at the fair. But you can count on the slop coming from green chile made with Pueblo green chiles, which means it's likely to be hot. Very hot. The beef and onions will also be locally sourced, according to Colorado Proud, which is celebrating its twentieth anniversary of promoting food and agricultural products grown, raised or made in Colorado.

For those who find it difficult to down even one complete slopper, the challenge sounds daunting. Still, a dozen of the nation's top-ranked eaters, along with local entrants, will be at the PB&T Bank Pavilion at the fair on August 31, all with hopes of setting a world record in the slopper-eating discipline, and in the process snagging a $4,000 purse...and likely a major case of indigestion.

The Colorado State Fair runs through Labor Day; grounds admission is $12, and once you're there, make sure to find the Gray's Coors Tavern food truck, which will be serving sloppers based on the original recipe. (Find out more about the fair at coloradostatefair.com.)

If you can't make it to Pueblo, you can have your own slopper celebration here in Denver. We've found decent versions at Diego's Mexican Food and Cantina off the 16th Street Mall (but then, the Terrones family, which runs the place, is from Pueblo), as well as Crave Real Burgers in Castle Rock. But it pops up on a number of other menus, including that of the bare-bones T-Bird Roadhouse in Wheat Ridge, smothered in a mean homemade green.
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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun