See smoke? It’s spring in Osage City

Spring has blown in red flag fire danger warnings across Kansas, but smoke is already clouding the horizon at Osage City. Don’t be alarmed, though, it’s normal for this time of year as the 11th annual Smoke in the Spring State BBQ Championship, April 11-12, 2014, is just three short weeks away.

This year’s event is stoking up to be one of the biggest contests so far, with a planned maximum of 96 cooking teams competing, according to contest organizer Corey Linton, Osage City Parks and Recreation director. The most to have competed in past contests was 82.

“It looks like we’re going to get our max,” Linton said, reporting Thursday that 71 teams have registered so far.

He said the increasing amount of competitors is one sign that Osage City’s annual barbecue championship has gained reputation as one of the premier contests on the U.S. barbecue competition circuit. Cooking teams that have competed at Osage City previously are usually the first to sign up each year, creating a pool of competitors eager to return for the contest that is known to be well organized by a welcoming community.

“The main reason many of the competitors want to return to the contest year after year is the hospitality shown to them while they’re in Osage City,” Linton said.

He said he had little doubt the maximum amount of teams will be reached by competition time on April 12.

At last year’s contest, filming of an episode of the popular barbecue television series BBQ Pitmasters put Osage City in the national spotlight, but this year’s event is expected to grill up some statewide appeal with the filming of an episode of Sunflower Journeys, a PBS series that presents the unique flavor of Kansas.

Linton also reported the maximum of 24 cooking teams have signed up to cook for locals’ favorite part of the contest, the Taste of Osage City, held on Friday night during the town’s barbecue festivities.

Taste of Osage City, an evening of sampling barbecue and other delectable foods cooked by competition barbecue chefs, has gained its own reputation among people who like to eat. While the actual competition brings hundreds of people to town, counting barbecue team members and official barbecue judges, Taste of Osage City provides an evening for everyone to gather and enjoy the fun that goes along with a giant outdoors eating party.

The process is simple: BBQ Bucks are purchased prior to the evening or 4-7 p.m. April 11 at Jones Park. The BBQ Bucks are then exchanged for food or drink at participating cookers, which are all located in a designated area near the north end of the park. Food sales begin at 5 p.m. and continue “until the food runs out,” Linton says.

BBQ Bucks will go on sale April 1 at Osage City Hall, 201 S. Fifth St., and Edward Jones, 516 Market St., Osage City. Linton reminds everyone that BBQ Bucks do not expire and any leftovers can be used during next year’s event.

Another highlight of Friday evening is the live band Downward Spiral playing in the recreation building. The free show, sponsored by SkyDive Kansas, begins at 8 p.m., with refreshments for sale by the Osage City Lions Club. Downward Spiral plays classic rock and country with some original works added in for fun. For more information, see www.downwardspiralband.com.

Also Friday night is the Kids-Q Contest, in which kid competitors of all ages can show off their cooking talents. The contest is open to all kids, but sponsorship by a competing barbecue team is required. Linton said if any competitors don’t have a sponsoring team, he can help match competitors with teams. Kids-Q cooks’ meeting is 5:30 p.m. at the community building. Competitors are each given one pound of ground beef to prepare on site. Meat is provided by Santa Fe Trail Meats, of Overbrook. Contact Linton to register.

As the traditional Friday night barbecue party winds down, competitors begin focusing on Saturday’s turn-in schedule, and start firing up their smokers to orchestrate the cooking times for the morning entries of chicken, ribs, pork and brisket.

During the Saturday competition, which is a Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned event, spectators are welcome to stroll through cookers’ row and watch them at work, but are asked not to bother or distract competitors. Be assured the cookers are serious about this competition that offers more than $10,000 in prizes.

As the competition heats up at Jones Park, the weekend celebration starts cooking in Osage City’s downtown, where this year the 10th annual Cruis’n & Cook’n Auto Show will be staged between Fourth and Seventh streets along Market Street, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Last year’s car show, hosted by the Twin Lakes Cruisers and held in conjunction with Smoke in the Spring, attracted more than 200 entries, lining Osage City’s downtown with all makes and models of cars, trucks, vans, classic, vintage, street rods, rat rods, muscle cars and motorcycles. Also planned are Hot Wheels races at 1 p.m. Awards will be presented at 2:30 p.m. For more information about the car show, contact Richard Swarts at 785-528-3667.

As part of the theme of the weekend – eating – two school fundraisers will provide food at the downtown gathering: Osage City Junior High School cheerleaders will offer breakfast burritos, donuts, coffee and juice in the morning, and 11a.m.-2 p.m. the Osage City High School Band Boosters will serve pulled pork sandwiches, sides and drinks at the Osage County Senior Center, 604 Market St.

To fill up the weekend, a fly-in is planned at Osage City Airport. Pilots of vintage, specialty, experimental or other aircraft are invited to fly in to enjoy Osage City’s hospitality Friday or Saturday. Contact Mike Handly for more information at [email protected].

Linton also offered a reminder that anyone in the county who would like to be involved with the weekend barbecue fun is invited. He said Osage City is well represented at the event through city staff, civic organizations, school groups and the Osage City Chamber of Commerce, but others from around the county can be involved, either by volunteering or setting up informational booths to show all Osage County has to offer.

“This event brings in people from other places who normally wouldn’t come here,” Linton said. “From what they see, they may decide to come back to Osage County to stay longer, such as to camp a week at one of our lakes.”

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

Contact us: Osage County News | P.O. Box 62, Lyndon, KS 66451 | [email protected] | 785-828-4994 | Powered by Osage County, Kansas