Events in area towns draw thousands

John Thomann, left, and Jim Powers, both of Lenexa, prepare chicken before the judging at the 12th annual BBQ Blowout in McLouth. The Bum

The smell of barbecue Saturday in McLouth’s Prairie Park overwhelmed any concerns anyone might have had about rain.

An estimated 3,000 people were expected to attend the annual BBQ Blowout, according to organizers, and Glen Owens was one of them. He was glad to be home after a stint with an Air Force supply and maintenance unit that serviced B-2 bombers in Diego Garcia during the war with Iraq.

“It’s always good,” Owens, 21, McLouth, said of the samples he and others were gobbling up from the 38 barbecue cookers competing in this year’s event.

“We came here for the barbecue and the car show,” said Owens’ friend, Brian Plake, 22, Leavenworth.

Several antique and street rod cars, along with at least 20 motorcycles, were on display during the daylong event.

The McLouth 4-H club got into the act with a country breakfast. Later, the club sponsored a bakeoff and raffled pies.

Besides the barbecue, there was a place for children to play that featured a trackless train, moonwalk and carnival games.

“It’s a family-friendly event. We try to promote a real family atmosphere,” said Cheryl Wonnell, who serves on the McLouth BBQ Blowout’s organizing committee.

For the first time, the contest was staged in conjunction with a bluegrass festival featuring three area bands and culminating in a jam session. Guests were invited to bring their own instruments and play with students of the Americana Music Academy of Lawrence.

The barbecue is a fund-raiser for improvements to Prairie Park.

In Ottawa, crowds gathered in City Park for the annual Skunk Run arts and crafts festival and an art exhibit highlighting area artists.

And in Baldwin, the crowds spread over the city in search of bargains at the 16th annual citywide garage sale.

Dorothy Johanning, Baldwin, said getting the entire community involved was important to making the event a success.

“It’s wonderful,” she said. “It really helps draw people to town.”

The sale can even serve as supplemental income for some, like John Fritts, Ottawa. Fritts’ daughter, Shirley Rose, lives in Baldwin and for the past four or five years Fritts has sold fishing poles he refurbishes at the sale.

Sarah Woellhof, Topeka, heard about the sale while visiting some friends in the area. She had already been to three sales and hoped to spend the rest of the afternoon browsing. She enjoyed the sale, she said, for the variety.

“Where else could you find something like this? I’ve never even heard of it before,” she said, holding up a magazine printed in the 1930s she had purchased.

The sale is organized by the Friends of the Baldwin City Library, who sell directories listing the locations and some of the goods of each sale. This year, the directory included nearly 100 sales. Money raised from the sale will be used for the library’s summer reading program, guest speakers, book talks, Night of 1,000 Stars and new library materials.