An old expression comes to mind from our trip to the American Royal in Kansas City…’It’s colder than a witch’s teat!’. For 3 days, the band of misfits we called ‘our team’, competed at the World Series of Barbecue Invitational and Open competition. This event touted a record 545 teams, the largest in the world!
Man was it cold, but what a thrill it was to be there. Thanks to Al Bowman (Canadian Bakin’ BBQ Team), we got an invitation to the the WSB. It was my last contest of the year and I wanted to end it on a high note. On our endeavor west included, Me, Jamie, Al and Karen represented Canadian Bakin’ BBQ Team.
The results (competed as Canadian Bakin’).
Okay, so we were not successful…not even close. Despite this, we learned a lot and we had a great time seeing our friends and making new ones. The experience of competing at the WSB made us aware of the amount of work and dedication it takes to get there and win. We also learned that people who come to the American Royal know how to party…hard.
The atmosphere was exactly how I remembered being at Mardi Gras on Bourbon Sreet. An epic party happening at every rented lot in the section of the Kemper Arena grounds known as “The Dark Side”. Every kind of party theme was represented: rave, club, rodeo, luau, rock, country, hip hop, jazz…it was a spectacle. As we walked through the dark side all I can think about was the BBQ cook, clearly my partying days have passed me by.
Aside from the non-stop partying, we made our rounds about the perimeter. We went inside the Kemper Arena where they had various food and BBQ product booths. Various food sample stations were set up to taste and buy your favorite products. BBQ vendors were aplenty, for those not familiar with BBQ competitions…teams are not allowed to give food to the public, vendors can only sell BBQ at KCBS events. The health department does this to protect both teams and patrons.
Being that most of our competitions were in the rural parts of Missouri where crowds of hundreds were the most we would see at one time, in KC, we were drowned out by the tens of thousands of folks, many of whom were aloof walking through our lot while we prepped meats. Nonetheless, we were told things like this would happen, but it was rather annoying from the get go.
Despite a hectic schedule, all of us managed to find some time to check out some of the most influential and legendary BBQ competitors at the event. Al was left speechless after meeting Harry Soo and Danielle Dimovski. I got to meet Tuffy Stone and then we tried looking for Johnny Trigg and Myron Mixon. While Trigg was MIA, we found Myron holed up in his truck just about to leave after the first day of competition, but let him be.
We had fun wondering the lot and meeting folks from all over the world! Even got to meet some of the top competitive BBQ teams around. However, we preferred to share our moments with friends who also made the trek from St. Louis to KC. Jeff and Linda Rippelmeyer, Brian and Leo Butts, Jeff Brinker (1st Pork – Invitational, 8th Ribs – Open), Tim Scheer (1st Ribs – Open) and El Mellow (3rd Pork – Open) were there to keep us company and show us how it’s done at the Royal.
We couldn’t have had better neighbors. The guys from ZBQ BBQ Team set up a fort next to our shanty, but they were more than inviting towards us to hang out with them. A little shigging even went on before we just all out disclosed our rib recipes. As we find out later, ZBQ got a 5th place call in ribs at the Invitational, it’s safe to say I’ll be trying their recipe.
By Sunday afternoon, the City of Fountains warmed to balmy temperatures. But the damage was done, the lack of sleep and exhaustion took it’s toll on the final day of competition. My chicken and brisket was lazy and sloppy, much like how I appeared that day. It was worth it, even though our scores didn’t reflect our hard work, I felt we accomplished our ultimate goal…competing against the best BBQers in the world.