Community celebrates barbecue: Smoke in the Spring

Spring is here and that means smoke is on the horizon for Osage City, as the town gears up for the 10th anniversary of the Smoke in the Spring State BBQ Championship. And although teams have been pared and event locations have been shuffled due to ongoing school facilities construction in Jones Park, this year’s contest promises to have impact reaching beyond Osage County. It’s not only going to be a reunion of competitors of the last nine contests, Smoke in the Spring will also serve as a backdrop for a reality television show that explores the competitive world of barbecue contests.

Corey Linton, Osage City Parks and Recreation director and contest organizer, said BBQ Pitmasters, a hit series on Destination America, will set up its stage in Jones Park Thursday, the day before the barbecue festivities begin in Osage City.

Each episode of BBQ Pitmasters features three selected barbecue teams that compete for one prize. While filming begins for Pitmasters competitors on Friday, the rest of Osage City will be getting ready for that evening’s Taste of Osage City, where everyone can sample the flavors and smells that emit from Jones Park during the competition.

At 5 p.m. April 12, the “giant outdoor barbecue buffet”, as Linton likes to call it, opens to the public. During the Taste of Osage City, anyone who has BBQ Bucks can exchange them to participating barbecue teams for smoked foods or any other taste treats offered. The participating teams are free to make their own menus and set their own BBQ Buck prices for the food offered. Seven of the 20 cooking teams are from Osage County, so a Taste of Osage City will also be a taste of Osage County this year.

In addition to the barbecue fare, Frito Lay, a new sponsor of the contest, will be handing out free bags of chips and snacks during the evening.

BBQ Bucks can be purchased in advance beginning April 8 from Osage City Hall, 201 S. Fifth St., or Edward Jones, 516 Market St. BBQ Bucks will also be sold 4-7 p.m. Friday at Jones Park.

In addition to food items, BBQ Bucks can be used Friday night for any beverages offered for sale in the park. BBQ cookers can sell non-alcoholic beverages, while the Lions Club will be offering beer and drinks for sale in the recreation building.

The free live entertainment portion of the celebration, sponsored by Skydive Kansas, begins at 8 p.m Friday at the recreation building, with the band Backyard Legend performing classic rock, country and blues “you can sink your teeth into.”

Saturday morning, as cookers get serious about competing, the town’s celebration turns from cooking to cruising with the Cruisin’ and Cookin’ Car Show that will be in downtown Osage City this year. Market Street is to be closed to traffic from Fourth to Sixth streets, where cars will be on display. If past attendance is an indication, auto enthusiasts can expect to see as many as 200 vehicles on display during the car show. A Hot Wheels race is scheduled for 1 p.m. Awards presentation is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

Also downtown will be another chance for everyone to have a barbecue lunch, served by the Osage City High School band, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Osage County Senior Center, 604 Market St.

With Smoke in the Spring as a backdrop, Pitmasters will continue filming Saturday, as 75 cooking teams compete in Osage City’s tenth barbecue contest. Many of the teams have competed against each other in previous contests and shared in Osage City’s hospitality, which Linton says is the key to Smoke in the Spring’s success.

He said the competitors not only appreciate the contest’s promise of high-quality judging and professional organization, but also the helpfulness of the contest’s many volunteers.

“We have outstanding volunteers year after year, and they have developed good friendships with the teams,” Linton said. “The teams know they are appreciated.”

In the past nine years, Smoke in the Spring has grown into one of the premiere Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned event in the Midwest, attracting teams from 15 states.

“As Smoke in the Spring continues to grow, it maintains its down-home atmosphere,” Linton said.

Saturday’s highlights include the Smoke in the Spring competition, with an awards ceremony at 4 p.m. Pitmasters will also film the results portion of the episode.

The show will have two of its regular judges, Myron Mixon, a three-time world barbecue champion and best selling cookbook author, and Tuffy Stone, a classically trained French chef, former Marine and championship barbecue cook. The show also promises a mystery celebrity judge, yet to be announced. This season’s filming is to include a different special guest celebrity judge during each episode. The public is welcome to watch Pitmasters’ activities at the Jones Park stage area.

Sunday, Pitmasters will explore Kansas barbecue further than Osage County as it visits two barbecue restaurants, one in Emporia and another in Topeka.

Linton said the episode filmed this weekend will be part of a 13-episode series, and will likely air in the fall, putting Osage City and Kansas barbecue on national television. He said a community watch party could be a possibility when it airs.

As the tenth Smoke in the Spring is about to begin, Linton said Osage City can be proud of its success as host to a barbecue contest that’s now put it in the national spotlight.

He also reminds everyone to get their BBQ Bucks early so there is no need to spend time waiting in line Friday night.

“The food is served until it’s gone,” he said.

For more information, contact Linton at 785-528-4610 or [email protected], or see www.smokeinthespring.com.

See the Smoke in the Spring schedule of events here.


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