No matter what spring brings, Osage City heats up for Smoke in the Spring

Tools of the trade await the proper time for their use at a past Smoke in the Spring. File photo.

When it’s spring in Kansas, you never know what the weather will do, but when it’s spring in Osage City, you know there’s going to be a barbecue contest. And regardless of the temperature outside, the 15th annual Smoke in the Spring State BBQ Championship will go on as planned this weekend in Osage City.

As of Thursday, the weather forecast had taken a toll on this year’s team goal of 114, with organizer Corey Linton reporting several teams had dropped out due to concerns about traveling distance in wintery weather or other difficulties. But no matter how many teams compete Saturday, they will be cooking for Smoke in the Spring’s largest payout since the contest was first proclaimed as a state championship in 2004, $21,000.

The payout for this year’s winners was boosted with a contest grant from Smithfield Foods and the Smokin’ With Smithfield program.

“We received a $4,500 grant to be put toward top 15 overall for the four main categories,” Linton said. “Then in conjunction they provided 120 pork loins to create a pork loin category … donating an extra $1,000 to help with the payout of the pork loin category.”

Linton said Smoke in the Spring was one of 30 contests nationwide chosen to receive the Smithfield grant from more than 300 applicants. Two other contests in Kansas also received grants from the pork products company, which offers hand-trimmed ribs, loins, pork butt, and a variety of fresh pork cuts. Many barbecue teams favor Smithfield products for competition, and the company’s grant program “invests in the sport of competition barbecue by deepening the prize money in all of the major meat categories for cook teams, and providing event support to sanctioned barbecue competitions,” according to a company press release.

“We are proud and honored to continue our investment in the sport of competition barbecue,” said Emily Detwiler, director of fresh pork marketing for Smithfield Foods.

“It’s a very prestigious honor from Smithfield,” Linton noted.

Besides Osage City’s hospitality, the cash payouts to 15 places in the main event categories attract some of the top cooking teams in the Midwest to the contest. First place in main categories pays $600, while the grand champion prize sends the winner home with $3,000.

Linton noted teams will be competing against Clark Crew BBQ, with head cook Travis Clark, Yukon, Okla., Smoke in the Spring’s two-time defending grand champion, and Kansas City Barbecue Society’s 2017 Team of the Year.

“Travis has been a buzzsaw on the barbecue landscape the last two or three years,” Linton said.

Several of the competitors have been on BBQ Pitmasters, a television show that follows barbecue cookers as they compete, including Fergolicious BBQ, Richard Fergola and Jeremy Williams, of Gardner, Kan., and Slap’s BBQ, Joe Pierce, of Kansas City, Kan.

“From Texas to Wisconsin, the Midwest is well represented this year with quality teams,” Linton said. “I’m excited to have everybody come to Osage City and just have a good contest.”

Cooking teams were already arriving in Osage City on Thursday, with Jones Park expected to be full of campers and smokers by Friday evening. First turn-in, the pork loin category, will be at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, finishing with the dessert category at 2 p.m. Everyone is welcome at the awards ceremony, scheduled for around 5 p.m. at the OCPR recreation building.

Linton also offered a reminder for anyone who wants to learn more about competition barbecue cooking that Fergolicious BBQ is offering a University of Que BBQ cooking class, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. April 14, 2018, at the Osage City Community Building. The class is taught by Richard Fergola and Jeremy Williams. Everyone can come out to visit them at this year’s Smoke in the Spring. Click for more information about the class.

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