Osage City celebrates 20 years of BBQ and community hospitality – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Osage City celebrates 20 years of BBQ and community hospitality

This spring marks 20 years of smokin’ and cookin’ at Osage City, with the 20th annual Smoke in the Spring State BBQ Championship firing up Friday evening.

The weekend celebration of smoked proteins starts cooking with the giant community barbecue party Friday at Jones Park, known as the “Taste of Osage City”. This year’s “Taste” will feature 17 competition barbecue teams offering their favorite outdoor cooked fare in exchange for BBQ Bucks.

BBQ Bucks can be used to purchase food, drinks, and other items at the event beginning at 5 p.m. BBQ Bucks will be sold on site, 1-7 p.m. April 7, at the community building concession windows. (BBQ Bucks have no expiration date and can be used at future events.)

While the party focuses on fine smoked meats, cooks serve up an eclectic menu not likely offered anywhere else. As the party heats up, at around 7 p.m., the band Chance Encounter will fire up the amps for an evening of classic and modern rock ‘n’ roll in the OCPR building; the show is open to all ages. The recreation building is also the spot for cooling off your palate with the Osage City Fraternal Order of Eagles, which is tending a beer garden and offering beverages of all types.

Really sparking the event will be a fireworks show provided by Garret Fireworks, in the open area south of OCPR building, after dark.

“Bring a friend, have a beverage, eat some BBQ, stay for the music and fireworks,” said Corey Linton, the contest’s organizer for 17 of its 20 years.

While the party cooks, competition chefs will get serious about tending their smokers overnight and in the morning for the annual Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned state championship. Competitors will cook the KCBS required categories, chicken, ribs, pork, and brisket, along with an added category of turkey as part of the nationwide Turkey Smoke competition sanctioned by the National Turkey Federation.

After 20 years, Linton said the contest has established a standing in the BBQ world as a premiere contest.

“Due to the longevity of the event, it’s so well-known that Smoke in the Spring has become a destination contest for teams and judges,” Linton said.

He noted the contest started out small, in a downtown park, but grew over the years to regularly having more than 100 teams competing. This year 104 teams are signed up to try for the 20th anniversary trophies and accompanying $25,000 in total prize money.

Linton says the reason the contest has become so popular and well-liked is due to the friendliness and hospitality of the people of Osage City.

“We’re still a small-town contest, but how we treat the teams and judges is why they want to return year after year,” Linton said. “New teams come because of word of mouth, but after they get here they want to come back.”

In his 17 years of organizing the contest, Linton said getting through COVID was one big challenge, with the 2020 contest postponed until Halloween weekend of that year. That year, strict COVID protocols were applied to judges and cooks, diminishing opportunities for both.

“We got past that, and now people want to come out again,” he said. Linton said this year, 31 of the 104 teams are new to Smoke in the Spring, and teams signed up represent 11 states, with the furthest from Washington. More than 120 certified barbecue judges and table captains have been recruited from all over the Midwest to judge the contest.

As the contest’s 20th anniversary, some special participants deserve recognition, such as the team Dawghouse BBQ, Overland Park, Kan., which has competed 17 times. Recognition also goes to longtime contest sponsor Orbis Corp., which has produced special pink plastic totes, one of their product lines, to commemorate the 20th anniversary. With one given to each team, Orbis’ plastic totes have been a well-received gift to the cookers over the years.

This year’s contest will also welcome a celebrity of the barbecue world, Carolyn Wells, who is one of the founders of Kansas City Barbeque Society. Wells will serve as a KCBS contest rep during Saturday’s competition. Other KCBS reps overseeing the contest will be Dave and Peg Rogers, Forrest Bruce, Larry Hadley, and Linda and Larry Voth.

The special 20-year storage container presented to each contest team is sponsored by Orbis Corp., Osage City. #ORBIS #ABetterWayWithORBIS


Friday night’s events will include the first competition of the weekend as kids 6 to 16 years old compete in Kids-Q. The young chefs cook under the sponsorship of one of the competition teams. This year’s entries will be Wagyu ground beef cooked in whatever manner the cook chooses. A dozen local celebrity judges have been selected to judge Kids-Q.

Saturday’s state championship doesn’t provide much entertainment for the public, as the cookers are heavily involved in competing and there will not be food available to the public at Jones Park that day. Spectators are welcome to walk around to view the teams at work; they are asked not to bother competitors. Everyone is welcome at the afternoon awards banquet, which happens after all scores have been tallied, usually 3 p.m. or later.

Parking for Friday’s events is available at the open grass area west of Martin Street (west of the stadium), and Osage City Schools parking lots at 420 S. Fourth St., Osage City.

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