At Osage City, where there’s smoke, there’s barbecue

Where there’s smoke there’s fire, but don’t be alarmed when it’s billowing out of Osage City’s Jones Park next week. All of that smoke and mouth-watering aromas will be coming from the record number of barbecue contestants at the 12th annual Smoke in the Spring State BBQ Championship, April 10-11, 2015.

The annual community barbecue festival and contest has drawn 96 competition teams for this year’s event, the most ever to compete in what has become a renowned barbecue contest in the central U.S.

According to the contest’s organizer, Corey Linton, Osage City Parks and Recreation director, teams from eight states put their names in early to fill the available contest spots. Linton said the contest has continued to grow in popularity, resulting in more contestants wanting to compete for a share of the prize money offered at Osage City. This year $13,000 will be awarded for those who cook up the best chicken, pork, brisket and ribs. The most teams previously competing was 84.

“We’ve got a good mixture of returning teams and new teams this year,” Linton said this week, noting about a third of the teams are new to the Osage City competition, a Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned contest.

He said early publicity about Smoke in the Spring targeted the competition barbecue circuit, and with the contest scheduled early in the season on a weekend with no other nearby contests, the signup sheet started filling fast.

“The deadline was March 27, and we got the 96th team on that day,” Linton said.

Accommodations have been made to fit the competing teams into Jones Park, in addition to securing additional barbecue judges. The competition has also gained a reputation among contestants for its large number of certified barbecue judges. This year, almost all of the judges will be either certified barbecue judges or master barbecue judges.

While the barbecue cooks’ focus is on the competition, about everyone else at Osage City is thinking of eating fine barbecue and other outdoor fare during the annual Friday night community party that kicks off the contest.

During the Taste of Osage City, hungry carnivores and others are sure to find something to sink their teeth into, with everyone invited to what has been billed as a giant outdoor barbecue smorgasbord. This year 25 teams will be cooking for the Taste of Osage City, and participating cookers will be located in the parking lots north of the community building.

The cooks don’t accept money, though. BBQ Bucks are used as currency. BBQ Bucks can be purchased in advance at Edward Jones in Osage City, or at Osage City Hall, beginning April 6. BBQ Bucks will also be for sale 12-7 p.m. on the day of the event, April 10, in Jones Park at the south side of community building at the concession windows. Food sales begin at 5 p.m. and continue “until the food runs out,” Linton says.

While eating good food is the highlight of the evening, “There’s something for everybody,” Linton said, noting a live band, Backyard Legend, will be playing in the parks and recreation building beginning at 8 p.m., and bounce houses will be available outside the building for kids. This year’s rocking event will feature Osage City Mayor Quintin Robert playing drums for the band that plays classic rock, country and blues “you can sink your teeth into.”

There is no charge for joining the fun at the recreation building, including the music, dancing and bouncing. A vendor will be offering adult drinks for sale in the recreation building, and a local organization will be selling soft drinks and water during the evening party.

Friday night of the event also kicks off the barbecue competition, with the Kids-Q contest getting under way with a cook’s meeting at 4 p.m. The young competitors will each cook up a pound of hamburger in any manner they choose, with turn-in at 8 p.m. to a room full of judges waiting to taste the kid chefs’ creations. Kids-Q competitors must be sponsored by a barbecue team competing in Saturday’s contest, but Linton said if kids want to compete but don’t have a sponsor, they should contact him beforehand to possibly arrange a sponsor.

As the Friday night party winds down, the competitors will be getting down to the business of cooking up entries for the competition. Cooking goes on all night and judging continues throughout the late morning and early afternoon Saturday.

As the competition is under way, the mood in Jones Park changes to reflect the seriousness at hand. But despite the intent focus of the contestants on Saturday, the barbecue celebration continues in downtown Osage City with the Cruis’n and Cook’n Car Show, in its 11th year held in conjunction with Smoke in the Spring.

As with Smoke in the Spring, the Cruis’n and Cook’n Car Show has continued to grow in popularity, turning Market Street in downtown Osage City into auto enthusiasts’ dream exhibition. Entries in the show in the past have exceeded 200 antique and classic cars, trucks, vans along with street rods, rat rods, and motorcycles. The show is free for spectators, who are invited to bring their lawn chairs and enjoy the day in downtown Osage City. The show is 9 a.m.-2 p.m., with awards presentation scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Hot Wheels racers will compete at 1 p.m.

And as if that isn’t enough, this year marks the second Wings in the Spring aircraft fly-in at Osage City Airport. All pilots and aircraft owners are invited to fly-in to Osage City on Saturday. Greeters will be on hand to assist those who fly in. A free shuttle will be provided on the hour from the airport to the car show downtown and from the car show to the airport. Everyone is invited to visit the airport and see the planes on display. Pilots who are planning to fly in are advised that Osage City’s runway is 2,560 feet long.

For more information about Smoke in the Spring or Kids-Q, contact Linton at 785-528-4610 or [email protected], or see www.smokeinthespring.com.

For more information about the car show, contact Richard Swarts at 785-528-3667 or see www.cruisnandcookn.com.

For more information about Wings in the Spring, contact Mike Handly at 785-231-9085.

Coming from out of town? Here’s how to get to Osage City, which is located about 30 miles southwest of Topeka:

  • By car: From the roundabout at the intersection of U.S. 75 and state Highway 31, go seven miles west to Osage City. Follow K-31 through town to Market Street, where the car show will be held, or if visiting for the Taste of Osage City on Friday, head to the west side of town to the intersection of Market and Martin streets and go four blocks south; Jones Park is on the east side.
  • By airplane: Osage City’s airport is on the east side of town. Approach from the south, touch down and stop before reaching the end of the runway. Taxi to the aprons or where guided, and greeters will assist you.
  • By foot, bicycle or horse: Approach from the east or west on the Flint Hills Nature Trail. Follow the trail until you hit an obstacle, or head south on Ninth Street or First Street to Market Street, and follow the above directions for cars.

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