“There’s going to be lots of smoke in the air.”
At least that’ll be the case Friday and Saturday at Jones Park in Osage City.
“It’s the 14th annual Smoke in the Spring State Barbeque Championship, April 7 and 8, with a full slate of activities for everybody. But, good eating of the most distinctive smelling gourmet will be the highlight for most,” announced Corey Linton, event coordinator, dedicated enthusiast and director of the Osage City Parks and Recreation, official sponsor.
“Over the past 13 years, the Smoke in the Spring has expanded into one of the premier barbecue contests in the Midwest, attracting teams and judges from 20 states as far away as Hawaii,” Linton pointed out.
Smoke in the Spring is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS), and designated as a state championship, offering more than $15,000 in prize money.
Osage City’s annual barbecue celebration promises to continue being the premier contest in Kansas, with 105 teams signed up to compete (as of today), making it two years in a row with more than 100 teams.
“We are affectionately known now as the Little Royal,” Linton said.
Smoke in the Spring got its start in 2003, and has gradually gained competitors every year since then. This year’s competitor limit had been set at 120.
“Osage City has created a signature barbecue event for teams and judges, and a community event Osage City and the entire Osage County can support and embrace,” Linton said. “Our goal is to annually offer participants, judges, sponsors and the public the very best barbecue competition possible.”
In addition to selection of grand and reserve grand champions, there’ll be winners in chicken, ribs, pork butt and brisket divisions, including Cook’s Choice, dessert, and two Kids-Q divisions.
While barbecue is the feature, the Taste of Osage City on Friday, April 7, offers the chance for everyone to get a taste of what’s cooking.
“Everybody is invited to this special Friday evening sampling showcasing the barbecued meats from Smoke in the Spring, beginning at 5 o’clock,” Linton explained.
BBQ Bucks, which are exchanged for menu items specially chosen by a couple dozen competing teams, can be purchased in advance until Friday at Osage City Hall, 201 S. Fifth St., or Edward Jones, 516 Market St., Osage City. On Friday, from noon until 7 p.m., BBQ Bucks will be available at the Osage City Community Building.
A Kids-Q contest gets underway at 5:30 p.m. Friday, with dessert as the category this year. Kid cooking contestants, sponsored by one of the cooking teams, compete in this non-sanctioned event to showcase their talents.
And, for all kids up to 14 years old, there will be inflatable bounce houses. For everyone, Friday evening entertainment includes a live band, Just Passin’ Through, playing country and rock and roll music, beginning at 8 p.m. Friday at the parks and recreation building. There’s no charge for the music, dancing and bouncing.
Along with competitors from nine states will come some top guns in the barbecue circuit, vying to rack up points with wins early in the barbecue season at Smoke in the Spring.
Registered to compete this year are teams such as the reigning Smoke in the Spring Grand Champion and the 2016 KCBS Team of the Year.
“Last year, 49 of the 112 teams we had in Osage City went on to win grand champion, reserve champion, or class champion titles,” Linton said.
“We not only have a large group of teams, but the quality of teams is outstanding,” he added.
The cooker coming the furthest distance to compete at Smoke in the Spring is Scott Richardson from Albuquerque, N.M.
While the public is not involved in the competition on Saturday, all are welcome to walk through the park and observe the cookers at work, being mindful that a competition is going on and the competitors should not be disturbed or interfered with.
As the competition is going on, the barbecue celebration continues in downtown Osage City with the Cruis’n and Cook’n Car Show, in its 12th year in conjunction with Smoke in the Spring. 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. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. See http://cruisnandcookn.com/ for more information.
There will also be a “Young Eagles Rally” at Osage City Airport, 9 a.m. – noon Saturday, April 8, where kids eight to 17, fly free. The event is sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1535. “Everyone is invited to visit the airport,” Linton welcomed.
See Smoke in the Spring schedule of events here, or for more information see www.smokeinthespring.com, or Smoke in the Spring’s Facebook page.
Frank J. Buchman is a lifelong rancher from Alta Vista, Kan., lifetime newspaper writer, syndicated national ag writer and radio marketing consultant.