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2012 grand champion:
B and B BBQ and Catering

'Up in Smoke' biggest and best yet in its 3rd year

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[August 21, 2013]  For Chris Graue and the hardworking committee behind the scenes of the "Up in Smoke on the Square" Kansas City Barbeque Society competition, the success of the event may be a bit overwhelming at times, but it should come as no surprise considering the work they put into it each year.

In its third year, Graue recently reported that the number of competitors for the sanctioned event is once again growing, with the expectation of more than 50 entrants for this year

Last fall, after the dust had settled a bit, Graue spent some time talking about the event and how it came to be a vital part of the annual Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival.

The event started taking shape in 2009 as a group of guys just talking about how they could do something in the community, and it evolved from there. Graue said they wanted to bring KCBS to Lincoln, but they weren't exactly prepared for what it would involve. They began by setting a goal of having the first competition in 2010. However, it ended up taking a little longer to get everything set up, so the event actually debuted in 2011.

Graue said they began by soliciting the help of a friend from Mason City, John Laughlin. Laughlin came to their meetings as someone who was in the know about the KCBS competition and offered guidance on what they could and couldn't do.

In the early stages of planning, the committee thought the competitors could not only prepare food for judging but also sell samples to the public. Laughlin told them that would never be allowed, so the group went a different direction.

"We decided we didn't want to take away from local businesses by bringing in vendors, but again, John told us that was not a good idea," Graue said.

McLaughlin said people would smell the food, watch the competition and want to eat, so it was decided barbecue vendors would be needed.

Graue explained that in the KCBS events, that organization will provide about half of the judges. The other half can be local folks, but they have to have gone through a training for judges. Graue said that when the committee had the training in early 2011, there was a great turnout of folks who wanted to participate, so they ended up with a nice pool of local judges.

Graue talked about the KCBS calling the organization the NASCAR of barbecue. The group comes into Lincoln with its judges and officials. They run the competition, score and oversee the judging of entries. KCBS provides the meat inspectors and has representatives who walk about observing the competition as it is underway.

For the judges, Graue said they love the Lincoln event for a few very good reasons. Thanks to LifePointe Church, at the corner of Pulaski and McLean streets, the judges have a great place to do their work. Graue said they enjoy being inside a temperature-controlled location with good lighting. The out-of-town judges have also expressed that they enjoy the fact that the competition takes place during the festival. It offers them the opportunity to see and do other things along with their task of judging.

For the competitors, having the event KCBS-sanctioned makes it more attractive because the points they earn in the Lincoln competition are added to their championship scores at the end of the season, when KCBS hosts its national event. In addition, the local event offers the second-largest purse in the state, $15,000.

In the first year of competition, there were approximately 30 entries. In year two, there were 44. This week Graue said there are currently 46 entries, but he knows there are those who will enter at the last possible moment. Therefore, he is expecting that the competition this year will consist of no less than 50 entries.

Graue said that of the 46 entries thus far, about 75 percent are returning competitors.

Among the well-known names on the list are:

  • Jeff Brinker of Insane Can Posse. Brinker was last year's grand champion.

  • Gill Taft of Gilly's BBQ, Drew McNatt of Hog Tide BBQ, Darren Warth of Iowa's Smokey D's BBQ and Mike Wozniak of Quau are all signed up for the Lincoln competition, and all of these cooks are also ranked in the top 10 in points on the national level.

  • In addition, Steve Hayden of One 2 BBQ will be here. Hayden is currently in the top 20 in points nationally and finished ninth in brisket nationally last year

There are also some local cooks in the mix, among them Dave and Wade Kaesebier of Lincoln, who will join the competition for the first time this year.

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Last year the committee added a new event to the competition, the "Anything Goes" shish kabob competition. Graue said it was a very pleasant surprise to see how many of the competitors took part in the event, and the work they did was outstanding.

In that competition, competitors were to create shish kabobs with the option to add vegetables to the skewer. They were required to also use watermelon as a garnish. The pieces were submitted to the Lincoln fire station and judged by local law enforcement, firefighters and other first responders.

The dishes that made their way to the firehouse on that first Friday night event were pure works of art. Nearly all of them carved their watermelons into remarkable shapes and used them as holders in one way or another for their skewers.

In that first competition there were 19 entries, and Graue said this week he fully expects that number to grow this year.

And this year, there will be another new event, with high hopes and expectations that the "Lincoln Backyard BBQ" competition will also be a success.

The new competition will not be a KCBS-sanctioned event, but it will draw in a local component and perhaps set the stage for more local KCBS competitors in the future.

Graue talked briefly about this new event. "We wanted to add the Backyard to give the local cooks an opportunity to show off their skills without stepping into the professional level just yet. With a purse of $500 and some nice ribbons, this should bring even more people downtown," he said.

Royal Oak Charcoal is sponsoring the Backyard BBQ, and LifePointe Church is hosting the event by providing the facility for the judging and also supplying the judges.

"Shane (Alley) has done a great job on the Backyard and has really taken ownership of the event," Graue said. "It should be a great addition."

Graue also noted that this type of event cannot be done each year without a ton of support. He said that working with the Lincoln/Logan County Chamber and making Up in Smoke part of the Lincoln Art & Balloon Festival has been a great boon for the event.

"I can't say enough about Andi Hake and her staff at the chamber. They take care of all the money, collect the entries and make it possible for us to do this each year," Graue said.

There is also a great group of people serving on the barbecue committee behind the scenes. Graue listed all those who dedicate so much of their time to the annual event, which they begin planning for early in the year.

On that committee are Graue, Jim Bishop, Todd Courtwright, Marc Schoonover, Larry Ingram, Rick Janssen, Chad Batson, Ron Boyd, Terry Baker, Steve Montgomery, Kevin Bateman, Josh Merreighn, Shane Alley, Wade and Dave Kaesebier, and Frank Bramwell.

"Our committee works really hard to bring the event to Lincoln and showcase our town to a new crowd of people," Graue said. "We're really encouraged by the positive comments from everyone that has been involved with the event. The chamber, the city, the county and all of the sponsors have been really good about helping us put this thing together."

Graue ended by saying that the event is a great deal of work but also a great deal of fun. He noted that it is good for the community and serves the mission of the chamber in that it brings people from out of town into the community. They attend this event, but they also do other things as well, such as visit the parks and vendors, enjoy the Art of Wine, visit local stores, and more.

If you've not had time in the past to check out these amazing events, try hard to get it in your schedule this year. The Anything Goes competition will be judged at the firehouse on Broadway Street, with turn-in time scheduled for 7:30 Friday night.

On Saturday morning, enjoy the sights and smells of great barbecue in the making. The KCBS event will take place on the east and south sides of the square, and the Backyard BBQ will be on South Kickapoo between Pulaski and Clinton streets. Then come back at 4 p.m. and cheer on the winners at the awards ceremony on the courthouse lawn.


Up in Smoke on the Square

Lincoln Backyard BBQ   (PDF)

Anything Goes   (PDF)

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