OSAGE CITY — Osage City’s Smoke in the Spring State Barbecue Competition settles into its second 100-team event this year, sitting at 105 teams for the annual event, which begins Friday at Jones Park in Osage City.
“The hype that surrounds this contest is spreading,” said Corey Linton, organizer for the event. “Once March begins, it’s all people talk about in our area. The last couple years, is that the talk is spreading to Shawnee County, to Lyon County. We just have more and more people every year.”
While the crowds look to swell, the contest has steadied, at least for this year. Linton looked for the number of teams to again grow slightly, but for many of the teams that regularly attend the event, it wasn’t in the cards this year.
“The most interesting thing is all the teams that aren’t coming, that have dropped,” Linton said. “Due to circumstances where teams who regularly attend are not able to attend, we were still able to attract so many new teams and get over 100 entrants. If all the returning teams had come, we would have easily made 120.”
The contest comes a few teams shy of last year’s 112 entrants, but still remains among the largest Kansas City Barbecue Society sanctioned events in the Midwest.
“We figured out we could take 120, to keep it comfortable in the judging area, to max out the amount of space in the west parking lot, and prevent from putting teams clear down by the baseball and softball fields,”
For the public attending the event, it will appear much the same, with plenty of barbecue to go around.
“It’s still churning away,” said Linton. “The machine is still running along as smooth at it ever has.”
For the public, the main part of the event is The Taste of Osage City, which will again feature 24 teams, many of whom can anticipate more than $1,000 of barbecue sales in a few hours Friday evening, beginning at 5 p.m.
“We have a few newer teams to experience,” Linton said, laying out the variety of food on Friday’s menu. “A lot of ribs this year. Smokin’ Co. is bringing in a Uni oven to do wood fire pizzas. We still have teams grilling shrimp, Scottish eggs, chicken legs, chicken wings, bacon-wrapped pork, bacon wrapped jalapenos…”
Linton expects to sell plenty of barbecue.
“I don’t foresee a change in the amount of barbecue purchased,” Linton said. “With the way the weather looks like for the weekend, I expect another terrific crowd.”
The contest sold more than $21,000 worth of food last year, and anticipates around the same this year. BBQ Bucks for the contest went on sale at Edward Jones and Osage City Hall in downtown Osage City earlier this week. Bucks may also be purchased from noon to 7 p.m. Friday at the Osage City Community Building in Jones Park.
In addition to the food tasting, the contest will again feature children’s inflatable toys until dusk, and live music with Just Passing Through until midnight.
“I think this band puts on a fantastic show,” Linton said. “Country-based music, with a little rock mixed in. They perform a lot around Emporia, Burlington and several places in Kansas City.”
After the music, smokers will spend the night cooking up contest entries, preparing meats as the crowd heads home. Contest turn in begins Saturday at 11:30 p.m. with “Cook’s Choice”, followed by the four primary meat classes – chicken, ribs, pork and brisket – and last, dessert.
“We have a full complement of judges, 120 in all, plus a few alternates,” Linton said. “We’ve planned ahead.”
The contest has been so successful the organizers have expanded the turn-in space to adjust for the size of the contest.
“It’s a problem you don’t know you have until it happens,” Linton said.
Contests entrants will again be vying for their share of $15,000, divided between class and overall champions, extending through 14th place.
Judges will also award prizes to winners of the Kids-Q, which takes place Friday evening.
Awards for the contest will be presented around 5 p.m. Saturday in the Community Building, wrapping up a weekend where success is anticipated. Linton assures it’s the product of the people that put it on.
“We say ‘Just 105 teams,” Linton said. “We function better than some contests with 30 teams. That’s based on help and the representatives that I have.”