The greatest weekend of BBQ in Kansas City is now done for another year. Congratulations to Shiggin and Grinning for winning the American Royal Open contest on Sunday and to Big Poppa Smokers for winning the American Royal Invitational on Saturday. They had lots of great competition but came out on top. They also went up against some classic Missouri weather. Lows at night were in the low 30′s and highs during the day were only in the 40′s until Sunday when the sun finally came out in time to warm everyone up for turn ins and the taping of BBQ Pitmasters.
For those of you that have never made it to KC for the American Royal here is how the schedule works. Teams arrive early in the week, usually before Friday. They get there spot set up and see the town. Friday is party night at The Royal. Some teams are hired by companies to cater large parties with music and drinks. There is even an award for best party. This is the day with the largest attendance numbers. The parties end around 11 or so and the invited teams (all previous grand champions this year) get ready to begin cooking for Saturdays Invitational contest. After turn ins on Saturday, the teams must again begin to get ready to cook for Sunday’s Open contest. Most teams invitational teams do compete in the open although some with longer trips home chose to leave before the open contest. All in all this makes The American Royal (in my opinion) the toughest BBQ contest in the world.
This year was a little different . Usually, Saturday night’s entertainment is some local band playing country music to a much smaller crowd that Friday night. This year in addition to the band, KCBS had the first ever BBQ Hall of Fame inductions. The Hall of Fame has been around for a few years now but KCBS purchased the rights to the Hall of Fame and hope to make it a grand occasion every year at The American Royal. The KCBS invited the previous seven inductees which included the likes of MIke Mills, Dr. Rich Davis, Carolyn Wells and John Willingham along with the 3 new inductees Henry Ford (representative), Johnny Trigg and celebrity chef Guy Fierri. It was a nice ceremony that honored all that attended.
For the first time ever, The American Royal had a Sunday event. The Destination America show BBQ Pitmasters was taping an episode in Kansas City. John Markus, Myron Mixon, Tuffy Stone and Aaron Franklin were all on hand for the season 4 taping. I got to speak with all of 4 of them personally and talk about this season and BBQ in General.
For the BBQ fan this had to be the ultimate weekend event. So many big names were in Kansas City, Mo that you would have trouble listing them all off the top of your head. Let me tell you some if my impressions of the event. First off, the contests, I have no idea how much organization it takes to put this on but the American Royal staff did a heck of a job. I heard no complaints from any cooker I spoke with about how the event was run. I have never had this kind of access to the Royal and was really impressed with the organization of it all. Awards were late (they always are at any contest) and the Hall of Fame Ceremony was a little late due to set up issues with the stage. Really neither was a big deal at all. Second, the Hall of Fame Ceremony was well thought out. The KCBS gave credit to all the previous inductees who were not privileged enough to have a ceremony when they were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Nice touch KCBS! Attendance at the ceremony was very sparse. Saturday night never has the attendance that Friday does, but some huge BBQ names were up on stage being honored. I did not see that many BBQ teams up by the stage area watching as ,The Godfather, Johnny Trigg was inducted. At 7pm that night at least some of the cookers should have shown up for the people that have paved the way for them to do what they do. The KCBS could have promoted it better than they did as well but there were over 500 teams at the Royal and I do not think there were 500 people at the ceremony. Hopefully Kansas City can do a little better next year. Sunday was BBQ Pitmasters Day with free admission to all. Once again not really advertised very well. The Pitmasters started at 7:30am and announced the winners at 6pm. Do not ask me for spoilers I purposely did not stay until the end so I would not have to keep a secret. I would have thought a lot a backyard cookers would have come down to watch that event and the crowd was small. I enjoyed talking to all the judges and creator John Markus. They were more than nice and obliging for my son Tanner and I. Overall a great weekend.
My final thoughts about The American Royal are this. This is the best contest in the US because of the setup and level of competition. I am a little biased, being from KC, and I have not been to Memphis in May or The Jack yet. Second, when KCBS and The American Royal have special events on Saturday and Sunday for the public they should do a better job of letting the public know of them. I wish more people could have been there for the Hall of Fame ceremony. The amount of BBQ knowledge on that stage that night was astounding. Third and last, if Destination America want to really push the BBQ Pitmasters show then they should promote the tapings on the network. Let people know why you are showing the previous episodes that a taping is coming up and where people can go to see it.
I will have more articles later in the weeks to come about some great experiences I had this weekend. Let me congratulate both Grand Champions crowned this weekend and thank everyone who I got to speak with this weekend.