They came from far and near — Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Florida, Texas — pulling campers, trailers, and smokers.
Their quest? To be crowned king or queen of Florence, Kansas barbecue.
This year’s contestants numbered fewer than last year, 29 and 42. Fuel prices might have kept some competitors away, said Les Allison, event organizer. However, the competition remained intense and focused with contestants in it to win.
A glance in the row of smokers reveals a man whose face is familiar to most in the Wichita area.
So, what is Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer doing in Florence?
He’s a competitor, representing the team of Brewer’s Smokin’ & Chokin’ BBQ.
“It’s a way I relax,” Brewer said. “It’s an opportunity to get away and test our cooking skills, competing with the best barbecue cooks in the nation.”
Brewer said he and his team haven’t been competing as much lately as they have in the past but still put their skills to the test at least one time every couple of months.
Ted McClure of Lenexa was on hand to support his family, PDT (Pretty Damn Tasty) during the competition. And what brought the Kansas City area family to Florence?
“Ron Goodwin (owner of Goodwin Enterprises of Burns) did. He made our trailer and grill for us,” McClure said.
This is the first time for the team of Skin ‘n’ Bones of Tarpon Springs, Fla., to compete at Florence.
Team member Lionel Cunningham said they had competed at Emporia but decided to venture to Florence this year because of the collaboration between Florence and Winfield.
Winfield hosted a KCBS-sanctioned cook-off Friday and Saturday, “Smokin’ Behind the Barn,” and many of the contestants from that event made it a full weekend by taking in Florence’s contest.
The top winners who competed at both competitions will be entitled to a separate purse of $1,400.
Cunningham said he appreciated the uniqueness of the different competitions, noting the Florence water tower trophy for the top winners.
At the Florence competition, teams had to cook chicken, pork ribs, pork shoulder, pork butt, and beef brisket. An optional entry was a dessert.
The competition officially began Sunday with judging Monday afternoon.
By participating in a contest that is part of the Kansas City Barbecue Society, contestants are assured that specific rules will be followed and the competition will be handled in a professional manner.
“We’ll definitely be back again next year,” Cunningham said.
Overall winners were: first place, Smokin’ Triggers of Alvarado, Texas, received a trophy and $2,000 cash. Second: Ribs 4 U of Paola, trophy and $1,500 cash. Third: K.C. Can & Crew of Lee’s Summit, Mo.
Chicken category: first, Smokin’ Triggers, trophy and $250; second, Skin ‘n’ Bones of Tarpon Springs, Fla., $150; third, 4 Legs Up of Great Bend.
Pork ribs category: first, Munchin’ Hogs @ The Hilton, trophy and $250; second, Ribs 4 U, $150; third, Dawhouse Barbecue of Overland Park.
Pork category: first, Ribs 4 U, trophy and $250; second, Smokin’ Triggers, $150; third, K.C. Can & Crew.
Brisket category: first, Pellet Envy of Leawood, trophy and $250; second, Smokers Wild of Paola, $150; third, Up in Smoke of Dodge City.
Dessert category (open): first, Potentially Hazardous BBQ, trophy and $250; second, Munchin’ Hogs, $150; third, Brewer’s Smokin’ & Chokin’ of Wichita.
The Route 77 Championship awards for those who competed at Winfield Friday and Saturday and Florence Sunday and Monday: first, 4 Legs Up, $800; second, Ribs 4 U, $300; third, Pellet Envy, $200; and fourth, Smokin’ Triggers, $100.
The recipient of the drawing of a copper plaque of the State Seal of Kansas was Carl Brewer of Wichita.