More than three decades after it began, this year’s Great Lenexa Barbecue Battle Kansas State Championship will take place on June 21 and 22. And what a battle it is. Guest blogger Lisa Waterman Gray walks you through this delicious battleground.
The Great Lenexa Barbecue Battle has grown from 12 contestants to 185 contestants in 2012. When the weather is good, upwards of 25,000 people attend the two-day event. The lucky ones find parking nearby, while others forgo a fruitless search and hop onto free shuttle buses that depart from several locations.
As Friday evening begins, the rolling terrain in Lenexa’s Sar-Ko-Par Trail Park becomes a sea of multi-colored tent tops where addictive aromas of grilled and smoked meats permeate the air as live music gears up for a bustling evening. There’s every variety of cooking apparatus on hand, from trusty round charcoal grills to tall, egg-shaped smokers and handcrafted custom equipment that resembles a pink pig or an antique train engine.
Booths surround the small lake while portable restrooms, campers in all shapes and sizes and pickup trucks dot the landscape. A party atmosphere prevails, where barbecue experts may serve friends and favored guests small samplings of their culinary genius coupled with cold appetizers and beverages. Tank tops and jeans, flip flops and t-shirts are the uniform of choice. But, with such a large crowd on hand, you won’t see any dogs (except service dogs), bicycles or skateboards. And this isn’t a place for golf carts, Segways or scooters either.
Die-hard barbecue contestants and visitors know the ‘serious’ show takes place on Saturday, when hours of slow-roasting and careful meat-tending coalesce in a fierce competition. Some contestants have even camped overnight while overseeing their prized entries. Judges must choose the very best examples of brisket, pork, ribs, sausage, chicken, and even whole animals, which contestants hope have been cooked to exquisite perfection.
5 o’clock nears, on Saturday, and a crowd gathers in portable lawn chairs, fills wooden picnic tables, and lounges in the grass before the massive judging platform. Cheers and clapping erupt when each winning contestant receives a ribbon, plaque or check from while cameras flash from all corners of the lawn.
By late evening, the park grows quiet again, as the last contestants collapse their tent tops, load their trucks, and head home for a well-deserved rest.
There is an admission charge for adults over age 13, on Friday.
Non-barbecue contestants may not bring in coolers.
Free children’s activities take place during much of the event.
Commercial vendors offer food and beverages for sale.
More info on Great Lenexa BBQ Battle
Lisa Waterman Gray is a freelance writer and photographer in Overland Park. She regularly writes about travel and food topics, and also writes human interest, health, and business stories on her site www.thestorytellerkc.net