Mclouth Cooks, judges and fans enjoy the taste of barbecue in the smoky air at the McLouth BBQ Blowout.
There is a waiting list to judge the McLouth BBQ Blowout.
"These guys that come out here and cook are good," judge Jerry McWilliams said.
Prairie Park was filled with the heady smell of smoked meats from 29 competitors Saturday at the eighth annual competition. Cooks entered ribs, pork, brisket, chicken, sausage, sauce and miscellaneous creations to a panel of 30 judges for the Northeast Kansas BBQ Championship.
The judges, and spectators, were busily consuming hours worth of work. Broken K Bar-B-Que's Brock Kerr started his fire at 3 a.m.
"It takes about an hour to heat all that metal up," he said.
He started seasoning the meat six to eight hours before cooking. The custom rotisserie grill he made lets him get a little sleep after he starts -- about a half hour at a time.
"You don't have to watch it quite as closely," he said.
Down the road, Smoke 'n Things, Steve Oakson and John Humphrey from Lawrence, were picking through their chickens to find an entry.
"That one looks almost too done," Oakson said while Humphrey sliced one. Behind Humphrey on a custom rack were all the things he needed -- knives, thermometers, spice rubs and sauces -- with the labels turned to the back.
"We've got stuff from all over the country," Humphrey said, found on Internet sites, from sauces to marinades. They were unlabeled, or turned away from the front, to keep some of the pair's cooking secrets.
They finally found a chicken they liked and placed it in on a bed of lettuce and rushed it to the judging tent.
There the lucky 30 judges waited for entries.
"It's just like Christmas in June," judge Warren Wheeler said. The table in front of him had all the necessary tools -- score sheets, water, soda crackers and wet wipes.
Entries were judged by six judges on taste, tenderness and appearance. As the pork ribs entries came in, the judges set to work. Silently, the teams looked over each entry and then divided them up for tasting. After a bite of each, followed by some cracker, the meats went into a box to take home.
"You get food for a week," Sandy Walbridge said. She organizes the judges each year by writing to everyone who judged the year before. After they respond, she fills in the empty spaces from a waiting list.
Those who couldn't be judges could at least sample the barbecuers' work. Around 3,000 people came out to try the barbecue and check out the other events at the park. Most competitors, trying for the people's choice award, put out samples for the crowds roaming the park with paper plates in hand.
The grand champion of the Blowout qualifies for the Kansas State Championship, the American Royal BBQ Invitational Championship and a slot in the lottery for the Jack Daniels BBQ Championship.
McLouth teams swept the people's choice awards, with Tara Mays taking first, Fat Boys in second and Frank's Place in third. The judges picked Boss Hawg's, Topeka, as the best barbecue, followed by Doughboy's Dream, Basehor, and Byrd and His Flock BBQ, from Lenexa.
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