Life On Lookout

Battle Below the Clouds Returns Saturday to Ruby Falls

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Despite a clear forecast this Saturday, Ruby Falls is expecting cloud cover. The haze isn’t a strange weather phenomenon. The third annual “Battle Below the Clouds” barbecue competition will bring about a dozen large smokers to the attraction’s upper parking lot.

But some of the details behind local team, R&R Flavor Train remain shrouded in mystery – like what’s the secret ingredient in Rink Murray’s spice rub? What does R&R really stand for? And what really happened to the trophy last year?

The secret ingredient obviously has to remain secret, but I’ll just say I can guarantee no one is using the spice rub we’re using,” says Ross Ballenger, who has won “Best Ribs” the past two years.

As for the trophy, Tommy Thatcher remains a top suspect but the matter was dropped when it was returned a few days later.

Luckily Ross is a man of faith and felt confident it would turn back up,” laughs Murray.

When asked about the name, he insists R&R doesn’t stand for Rink and Ross but declined to offer further details, only saying that the backstory isn’t fit for a family publication.

Obviously, this amateur barbecue competition is intended to be fun – for both the competitors and spectators. Ruby Falls visitors and Lookout Mountain locals are invited to peruse the cooking grounds free of charge. There will be live music from bluegrass inspired rock bands, The Von Wamps and Mountain Creek House Fire, and drawings for a Big Green Egg and Yeti Cooler. Many teams will also offer complimentary tastes (but donations to Lana’s Love are welcome).

This competition is for the guy who’s a great backyard cooker and wants to see how his barbecue stacks up to competition,” says Ballenger.

Registration is $400 with every penny going toward Lana’s Love, says Ballenger. Registered teams also receive two tickets to Ruby Falls and ZIPStream Aerial Adventure valued at $130, two t-shirts, two aprons, a spatula set and discounts on food and merchandise. All of this is possible through generous sponsors including Ruby Falls, Coca-Cola, Food City, The Barn Nursery and Lana’s Love Foundation.

The event was the brainchild of Ruby Falls President Hugh Morrow, who is an accomplished backyard chef in his own rite. In fact, Ballenger helped him win “Best Ribs” the first year as his teammate on a team sponsored by Ward Petty at Benjamin Edwards.

“Hugh’s more of a chef; I’m more of a cook,” he laughs.

Participants will be competing for three titles: Best Pulled Pork, Best Ribs and Best Overall. The meat is provided on Friday night for seasoning, but no cooking can take place until 6 a.m. on Saturday. Independent judging starts at 5 p.m. with awards to follow.

Besides bragging rights, the real purpose of this event is to support families living with pediatric cancer – not only through raising funds but also providing them fun family outings.

Lana’s Love mission has always been to provide fun to children and their families battling cancer in the Chattanooga and surrounding areas,” says director Holly Shull. “Through the support of our community sponsors and donors, Lana’s Love has grown to be so much more. It has become a true support system between families, volunteers and hospital staff. These families look forward to the monthly events where they can relax and forget about life for a while. The Webster family had a great vision and Lana Beth is proud.

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