By Frank J. Buchman
There’s going to be lots of smoke in the air.
At least that’ll be the case Friday and Saturday at Jones Park in Osage City.
“It’s the 13th annual Smoke in the Spring State Barbeque Championship Friday and Saturday, April 8 and 9, with a full slate of activities for everybody. But good eating of the most distinctive smelling gourmet will be the highlight for most,” announced Corey Linton, event coordinator, dedicated enthusiast and director of the Osage City Parks & Recreation, official sponsor.
“Over the past 12 years, the Smoke in the Spring has expanded into one of the premier barbecue contests in the Midwest attracting teams and judges from 20 states as far away as Hawaii,” Linton pointed out.
Smoke in the Spring is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS), and designated as a state championship offering more than $10,000 in prize money.
Osage City’s annual barbecue celebration promises to be the best ever this year, with 114 teams signed up to compete, beating last year’s record of 96 competitors. “This will be the largest contest here ever,” Linton said.
Smoke in the Spring got its start in 2003, and has gained competitors every year since then. This year’s competitor limit had been set at 102, but due to numerous continuing requests to be in the contest, Linton made space for a dozen more cooking teams.
“Osage City has created a signature barbecue event for teams and judges, and a community event Osage City and the entire Osage County can support and embrace, Linton said. “Our goal is to annually offer participants, judges, sponsor and the public the very best barbecue competition possible.”
In addition to selection of grand and reserve grand champions, there’ll be winners in chicken, ribs, pork butt and brisket divisions.
While barbecue is the feature, the Taste of Osage City offers the chance for everyone to get a taste of what’s cooking. “Everybody is invited to this special Friday evening sampling showcasing the barbecued meats from Smoke in the Spring, beginning at 5 o’clock,” Linton explained.
A Kids-Q contest is planned at 5:30, Friday, with “dessert” to be the category this year. There’ll be inflatable bounce houses for kids up to 14, and a live band, the Neosho River Band, featuring country and rock and roll music, will entertain at the parks and recreation building beginning at 8 o’clock. There’s no charge for the music, dancing and bouncing.
Along with competitors from 13 states will come some top guns in the barbecue circuit, vying to rack up points with wins early in the barbecue season at Smoke in the Spring.
Registered to compete this year are competitors such as 2015 American Royal Open Cooking Champion, four out of the top five finishers at the 2015 American Royal, the 2015 KCBS Ribs Team of the Year, and the 2015 KCBS Team of the Year.
The cooker coming the furthest distance to compete at Smoke in the Spring is Sean Keever, Big Guns BBQ, Pleasant Valley, New York.
While the public is not involved in the competition on Saturday, all are welcome to walk through the park and observe the cookers at work, being mindful that a competition is going on and the competitors should not be disturbed or interfered with.
As the competition is going on, the barbecue celebration continues in downtown Osage City with the Cruis’n and Cook’n Car Show, in its 12th year in conjunction with Smoke in the Spring.
Entries in the show in the past have exceeded 200 antique and classic cars, trucks, vans along with street rods, rat rods, and motorcycles. The show is free for spectators, who are invited to bring their lawn chairs and enjoy the day in downtown Osage City.
This year also marks the third Wings in the Spring aircraft fly-in at Osage City Airport. All pilots and aircraft owners are invited to fly-in to Osage City on Saturday.
Greeters will be on hand to assist those who fly in. Everyone is invited to visit the airport and see the planes on display.
Information is available at www.smokeinthespring.com.