BBQ enthusiasts flock to Sandstone
By Melissa Treolo
Though Pellet Envy was disqualified Friday from the Oklahoma Joe’s World Brisket Open for using the wrong presentation box, the husband and wife team still managed to grab third-place overall in the Kansas City BBQ Store Invitational.
“For him to get a disqualification is pretty shocking,” said event coordinator Paul Satterfield of Pellet Envy member Rod Gray, who Satterfield described as the “number one-ranked barbecue pitmaster.”
Pellet Envy, from Kansas City, was one of 204 teams from across the country going grill-to-grill last weekend during the Great American Barbecue Festival at Capitol Federal Park at Sandstone in Bonner Springs.
In addition to the invitational and brisket open judging, the weekend’s lineup included a Kidz Que – where youths were given the chance to compete with the help of their parents – the Open contest, where teams competed in preparing chicken, ribs, pork and brisket, and a people’s choice sampling tent, where festival goers got to sample 160 different kinds of barbecue sauces and cast a vote for their favorite. The sauces were also available for purchase, with all proceeds going to charity.
“It’s fun, it’s a lot of fun,” said Claudia Grehl, from Harmony, Minn., of the festival Friday evening while sampling some sauce on a bed of beef brisket in the people’s choice tent. Grehl said she and her husband Jerry heard about the event after reading about it in a magazine.
“We brought the camper, and here we are,” she said.
The barbecue festival brought many teams who have competed in the festival before, including returning team Burnt Finger BBQ, from Kansas City, renowned for their pork-infused creation the Bacon Explosion. The three-member team competed in the brisket open Friday and the Open contest on Saturday. Naturally, winning is always preferable for any barbecue contestant, but team member Jason Day says the competition is all about simply doing the best you can.
“We liked our brisket, we’re happy with it,” Day said following the brisket open Friday evening. “That’s all you can do.”
During the Kidz Que, possible future adult members of barbecue teams seasoned and grilled pork chops and steaks on mini-grills. Competitor Kaylin Groneman, age 9, might describe herself as a barbecue expert, as she has been taking part in barbecue competitions since she was 5 years old and already has two first-place victories under her belt.
“All of it,” Groneman said during the competition of what she liked about barbecue. “I like being with my barbecue friends and my family.”
Prior to placing her pork chop on the grill, Groneman said if she didn’t win first place, she at least wanted to “beat my sister,” who was also competing. She managed to do just that — landing 12th place above sister Lauren’s 15th placement.
The weekend’s festivities also included live music, a carnival, fireworks, food vendors, and free sampling and cooking demonstrations, which coordinator Tracy Satterfield said were “right on target with this audience.”
Now in its second year at Sandstone, Satterfield estimated about 40,000 showed up to the barbecue festival. There were some minor changes this time around. Instead of using the entire Sandstone venue, the festivities were contained in one area, making a more unified festival experience, Satterfield said.
“I think it helped, and the teams get tired if they have to be out in the parking lot three days cooking. It’s exhausting, and it kind of takes the spirit out of them,” Satterfield said. “We put all (the festivities) together to really make it a one festival barbecue celebration, so everyone was together. I think that it really helped by making all of us just one entity.”
Satterfield said, all in all, the festival went extremely well — despite one minor glitch Friday before the gates had opened.
“In one of our team spaces, a queen bee set up shop,” Satterfield said. “We had to call a beekeeper, which is the first time ever in 19 years (of coordinating barbecue events) … I’ve had to call a beekeeper.”
A swarm of bees followed its queen to her resting spot among the barbecue teams, but Satterfield said the beekeeper was able to remove the bees before the gates opened and before anyone was stung.
A complete list of contest results can be found at thinkbbq.com.