Where there’s smoke there’s BBQ at Osage City – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Where there’s smoke there’s BBQ at Osage City

Where there’s smoke there’s barbecue –  that is how it’s been in April at Osage City for about 18 years, except for last year. Postponed until Halloween last year due to COVID-19 conditions, the Smoke in the Spring State BBQ Championship is back on track for springtime barbecue competition in 2021.

The competition gets underway for the outdoor chefs Friday night as many start warming up their cookers, but the fun also fires up at the community barbecue party, Taste of Osage City, starting at 5 p.m.

Last year the community portion of BBQ contest was canceled due to the pandemic, but Friday night Osage City’s Jones Park will again be the site of a giant outdoor smorgasbord. During the “Taste”, about 11 barbecue cookers will be offering samples of delicacies they have created in exchange for BBQ Bucks. BBQ Bucks can be purchased in advance at Osage City Hall until noon Friday; then they will be sold at the Osage City Community Building at Jones Park 1 to 7 p.m. The menu ranges from pulled pork sliders and ribs, to “moink balls”, or something more exotic like a “Hot Mess” or smoked mac ‘n’ cheese.

Friday evening also includes live band Chance Encounters, known for their party rock and guitar chaos. The band will spark up around 7 p.m. near the south end of the Osage City recreation building, with the beer garden nearby.

Sometime around 9 p.m. or dark, local fireworks distributor Garret Fireworks will really light the place up with a display of many of their products. Parking is available for the event at the open grass area west of state Highway 170, west of the football bleachers. Launch zone will be the south part of Jones Park.

While Osage City and its guests celebrate smoke in the spring, the competition BBQ chefs begin setting their attention toward the challenges facing them the next day – mainly they have chicken, pork, ribs, and brisket on their minds.

Smoke in the Spring organizer Corey Linton reported this week he had 110 barbecue teams signed up to cook Saturday. Due to the reputation of Osage City’s Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned contest, the field includes some of the top cookers from across the United States.

“The team quality this year is really high,” Linton said, noting among the competitors are last year’s KCBS Team of the Year Getting’ Basted, and runner up Slaps BBQ, along with many other grand champs and top winners in the KCBS barbecue circuit.

Linton said Travis Clark and Clark Crew would be returning to Smoke in the Spring after a one year hiatus. Clark has built his reputation as a champion cooker in part with three grand championships at Smoke in the Spring, along with 2019 grand champion of the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue, and a past KCBS team of the year.

“We have teams from around 12 different states – from Minnesota down through New Mexico,” Linton said. “There are going to be a lot of really good teams here this weekend.”

Osage City’s event will also host some VIPs in the barbecue world this weekend, with Carolyn Wells, a co-founder of KCBS, serving as one of the KCBS contest reps. Wells and her late husband, Gary, and friend, Rick Welch, founded KCBS in 1986.

Smoke in the Spring usually has six KCBS reps oversee the contest, and Linton said Wells had requested to help out at Osage City this year.

“It’s a big honor having her wanting to be involved in our contest,” Linton said, “especially since KCBS is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.”

He said the KCBS anniversary is also bringing the organization’s CEO Emily Detwiler to Smoke in the Spring this year. The KCBS anniversary is also pretty special to Linton this year, as he was elected to serve as one of the 2021 KCBS board of directors.

Also visiting will be Beth Breeding, of the National Turkey Federation, which is sponsoring a Turkey Smoke category for the contest this year.

NTF chose Smoke in the Spring as one of the sites for their Turkey Smoke series, in which a turkey category is  incorporated into the contest, and the federation offers $1,000 in prize money for payout in that category. NTF also provides the awards for the turkey category, and provides each contestant with a 5 lb. boneless, skin-on turkey breast to cook for the contest. Winners of Turkey Smoke series vie for points and placings for turkey team of the year. Turkey winners’ recipes are also featured in KCBS and NTF promotions. At Smoke in the Spring this year, the turkey category will replace the traditional ancillary “cook’s choice” category.

Linton said the NTF Turkey Smoke series is a promotion to encourage cooking turkey on smokers and outdoor cookers.

“They’re trying to push the gobble in barbecue,” he joked.

Placings in the turkey category and other ancillary category of the contest, dessert, at Smoke in the Spring do not count in KCBS standings, for which the main points categories are chicken, pork, ribs, and brisket.

A new sponsor for Smoke in the Spring this year is Creekstone Farms, which is co-sponsoring Kids-Q with the Conrad Carlson Foundation. Creekstone is donating 12 oz. ribeye steaks for the kids’ contest. In their own contest Friday night, kid chefs in two age groups will cook up and turn in medium done steaks for tables of eager judges. Creekstone is also SITS 2021 brisket, pork butt, reserve champion sponsor.

Although the pandemic postponed last year’s contest and canceled the Taste of Osage City, Jones Park will likely have a more back-to-normal atmosphere during this year’s event. Linton notes that almost the entire event is held outdoors, allowing people space for social distancing. He said the teams serving food to the public on Friday night will be taking precautions to keep themselves and diners safe, and those waiting in line should social distance. There will be limited seating available, with sawhorse tables and picnic tables near Osage City Community Building and the basketball court. Osage County does not mandate mask wearing in public places at the current time.

As for the contest, with the judging portion all conducted inside the Osage City recreation building, KCBS guidelines for COVID-19 safety will be followed by all volunteers and judges, which includes social distancing, wearing gloves to touch sample boxes, and wearing masks except when tasting food. More than 120 judges and table captains have been recruited to judge the main competition Saturday, and many volunteers assist in the judging process.

Judging gets underway at 11:30 a.m. Saturday as the cooks turn in the first category of turkey. Final results will be announced at the awards ceremony at 4 p.m.

Part of Osage City’s weekend celebration also goes on downtown, beginning around 9 a.m. Saturday, where the Twin Lakes Cruisers host the annual Cruis’n and Cook’n Auto Show. This year’s show also features some other activities, including a hatchet throw and thrift sales.

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