Barbecue again the highlight for Osage City’s Smoke in the Spring

Taste of Osage City gives everyone an opportunity to taste what’s cooking at the Smoke in the Spring State BBQ Championship. That when Jones Park turns into a “giant outdoor smorgasbord” and community party, beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, April 12, 2019. Along with the KCBS sanctioned barbecue competition on Saturday will be a downtown car show. Wayne White photo.

By Frank J. Buchman

“There’s going to be lots of smoke in the air.”

It’s the 16th annual Smoke in the Spring State Barbeque Championship, April 12 and 13, at Osage City.

“At Jones Park, there’ll be a full slate of activities for everybody,” announced Corey Linton. “But good eating of the most distinctive smelling gourmet will be the highlight for most.”

As event coordinator and dedicated enthusiast, Linton is director of the Osage City Parks & Recreation, which sponsors the barbecue championship.

“Over the past 15 years, Smoke in the Spring has expanded into one of the Midwest’s premier barbecue contests. There’ll be teams and judges from 20 states, as far away as Hawaii,” Linton said.

Sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society, Smoke in the Spring is designated as a state championship. More than $25,000 will be awarded in prize money. This year, the competition received a 2019 Smokin’ with Smithfield Grant of $3,000 to go towards awards.

“Smithfield had hundreds of nationwide applicants and only picked 33 contestants,” Linton said.

In addition, Q-39, renowned “chef driven” barbecue restaurants in the Kansas City area owned by Rob Magee, also pledged $3,000 to this year’s contest.

“Rob was a competition barbecue contestant prior to opening his restaurants,” Linton said. “Smoke in the Spring was Rob’s first of 50-plus team grand championships.

“He still keeps track of when our event is each year to visit,” Linton added. “I’m honored to have Rob associate his restaurant with our competition, considering there are so many Kansas City Metro contests.”

Snake River Farms, known for its competition briskets, will host a SRF Brisket Challenge.

“The company picked six contestants from more than 100 applicants across the country,” Linton said.

The company will donate a Gateway Drum Smoker plus $1,000 cash, or $1,500 store credit to the brisket champion.

Osage City’s annual barbecue celebration promises to continue being the premier contest in Kansas. With 106 teams signed up to compete as of Monday, it’s three years in a row with more than 100 entries.

“We are affectionately known now as the Little Royal,” Linton said, referring to the American Royal at Kansas City, which is billed as the world series of barbecue.

Smoke in the Spring got its start in 2003, and has gradually gained competitors every year since then.

“It’s an entire Osage City community event that all from far and beyond can support and embrace,” Linton recognized. “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, and the brisket winner, there’ll be several more awards. Top entries will also be recognized KCBS’s required chicken, ribs, and pork and brisket divisions, along with ancillary categories of cook’s choice and dessert. In addition, two age groups of kids compete in the Kids-Q competition Friday evening.

Taste of Osage City

While barbecue is featured, the Taste of Osage City on Friday evening offers the chance for others to taste what’s cooking.

“Everybody is invited to this Friday evening’s sampling of barbecued meats at 5 o’clock,” Linton welcomed. The evening’s fare is cooked up by about two dozen of the competition chefs, with food exchanged for BBQ Bucks, available on site.

Beginning at 4 p.m., there’ll also be inflatable bounce houses for kids up to 14. Live music will fill the recreation building as Chance Encounter from Topeka entertains with ’80s and ’90s party rock and guitar chaos, beginning at 8 p.m. A fireworks show is scheduled for 9 p.m.

“There’s no charge for the music, dancing, bouncing or booming,” Linton said.

Championship competitors ‘cookin’ with the big dogs’

Among competitors at Osage City’s state championship will be some “top guns” in the barbecue circuit.

“They’ll be vying to rack up points with wins early in the season at Smoke in the Spring,” Linton noted.

Registered to compete this year is the reigning Smoke in the Spring grand champion Hogline BBQ, from Owatonna, Minn. Last year, 46 of the 100 teams at Osage City went on to win grand, reserve or class championships.

“We not only have a large group of teams, but the quality of teams is outstanding,” Linton added.

The cooker coming the greatest distance to compete at Smoke in the Spring is T-Mac Smokin’ from Sturgeon Bay, Wis. That’s 758 miles from Osage City.

“While the public is not involved in Saturday’s competition,” Linton said, “all are welcome to walk through the park.

“They can observe the cookers at work, being mindful that a contest is going on,” Linton noted. “Competitors should not be disturbed or interfered with.”

During the contest, the community celebration continues in downtown Osage City with the Cruis’n and Cook’n Car Show. In the past, there’ve been more than 300 antique and classic cars, trucks, vans, street rods, rat rods, and motorcycles in the show.

“The car show is free for spectators who are invited to enjoy the day in Osage City,” Linton welcomed.

“Search Smoke in the Spring’s Facebook page for a team map, list or Taste of Osage City menu,” Linton advised.


030615-franksmug2Frank J. Buchman is a lifelong rancher from Alta Vista, Kan., lifetime newspaper writer, syndicated national ag writer and radio marketing consultant.


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