The World's Championship BBQ Contest kicked off Thursday night at NRG Park.

"Well, hell, it's a lot of fun. It's a lot of fun. The cook-off is everything," said Tom Fitzgerald of Shamrock Smokrz.

He and his wife Debbie have been running this tent for the last four years

"We're going to turn in ribs on Saturday. That's our specialty," Fitzgerald said.

More than 250 teams are competing in the next couple of days to be the best of the best for food like chicken, brisket and ribs. Most say this is the true kickoff to rodeo season.

While most of the 400-plus team tents are invite only, you can still get onto the grounds to take in the sights and sounds at NRG Park.

The carnival also opened Thursday with rides for just about everyone.

"I can't wait. Every year this is my favorite time of the year. I love it here," said Carrie Barajas, who decided to wait while husband Antonio rode one of the scarier rides.

Even scarier likely was KHOU 11's Josh Chapin donning an apron and putting his cooking skills to the test.

He teamed with the Houston Food Bank and competed against six other teams to raise money. They then fed their concoctions to eager judges (Josh didn't win, by the way).

If you're headed there, you'll want to check out La Grande Wheel XL. It's one of the new attractions at the carnival.

It takes 22 semi-trailers to transport it and it soars 150 feet in the air. The cabins are also air-conditioned and there are 1/2 million LED lights on it, too.