What a Royal Time in KC!October 20, 2008 I know that this is a couple of weeks behind the fact but it is surprising how many other things come up when you get home between events... nonetheless, the American Royal BBQ event sure lived up to its name! This was the biggest event we have attended so far. The invitational event was for Grand Champion teams so it really was the best of the best. We set up on Thursday afternoon in a really nice spot right by Kemper Arena and the weather sure cooperated for us as it was a beautiful day. Friday was the first day of the event and people really turned out later in the day.
We had a nice turnout for our demo and sampling and kept hearing about the "dark side" of the tournament which really did not register until we left that evening. You see, where we were set up was the area where most of the "invitational" teams were set up and other than the crazy guy with the weird eyes blaring his sound system, it was pretty tame... on the other side of the arena were most of the "open" teams - those who competed in the Sunday contest - and it was packed with company parties, loud music, bright lights and party, party, party!!!
On the way through the arena, we passed through the "retail" area and got to see some competitive smokers set up and talk to the company reps. I got to meet Jamie Geer who makes the Jambo smokers and see some of his beautiful work. We visited with Chris Marks of Ace of Hearts BBQ which sells the Good One smoker that we use personally. Chris is an 8-time American Royal winner so it was nice to visit with him. We also found a couple of new products that were pretty neat - we met Brad, the inventor of the GrillGrate (grillgrate.com) which you can put on top of your standard grill and it keeps grease flareups to a minimum, provides a great non-stick surface and will cook a BBQ pizza in about 10 minutes!
We also found some new fire starters that work great in a charcoal chimney - Silver Nugget lightweight firestarters - they look like coiled up cardboard strips in foil and really work great! KCBS even had a booth so Chris and I picked up our CBJ pins, 2008 KCBS pins, KCBS member pins, pig pins, KCBS license plate holders and could have bought a number of different BBQ books and merchandise... Thank goodness they took plastic!!
Saturday at the event was another beautiful day and the smell of BBQ was thick in the air. Sometime in the afternoon, a guy in a Zorro costume strode up on the biggest prettiest black horse that I had ever seen. He had it dancing and prancing in the street in front of us. My folks and kid sister helped us out and finally got a chance to see Chris and I in "action" and what we have been doing all summer long.
At the end of the day, I got to sneak off to the awards ceremony. There were a hundred or so teams competing and they all gathered in the horse arena. It was nice to see all the teams cheering and genuinely happy for the winners who got to walk to the stage. Sitting in the bleachers, I was a little jealous of the success and pride of the teams who got a "call". The top teams were called in each category and while you did not hear a lot of the same names being called, there were at least two who got calls in all four categories. Joey Mac Smoke Stax and Buffalo's BBQ were the two most talented teams of the day. Joey was nice enough to help me when the tour was in Naperville back in July. That was the week before he took the Grand Champion trophy in Shannon, IL. I told him afterwards that I must have been his "lucky charm" after listening to our grilling demo. While I doubt it, it sure was fun to "rib" him a little.
In the bleachers, I was lucky enough to see both of these guys while the team totals were being counted down. Donnie had his head down and I could only imagine the thoughts going through his head that he might have won one of the most cherished trophies there is in the BBQ world. When Buffalo's BBQ's name was announced as Reserve Grand Champion, you could see the tension drain from Donnie's face as he walked up to claim his prize. You almost didn't think that he was happy for the win since he did not crack a smile until a group of well wishers shouted "Smile Donnie" which brought a nice smile to his face. While this was going on, I looked over at Joey and he was on the phone, I am sure to his wife at home telling her that his team just won the Grand Champion award, $12,000 for first place and a brand new Kingfisher smoker!
Oh yeah, and a nice jeweled crown and cape. Joey's father in law wore the cape and I am sure that Joey wore the crown to bed. He stopped by our trailer about an hour or so after winning carrying the big trophy and was nice enough to stop to visit a bit. In telling some people our history in Naperville, Joey told them that I would not even let him talk when we were in Naperville... I guess I will let him take the stage next year when we are in Naperville to talk... maybe I can even talk him into letting me wear the crown. That may be the closest that I might ever get to it!!
We finished loading out on Sunday and while we were waiting for the electrician to unhook us, I walked around a bit and visited with some of the 459 teams.....yes there were 459 teams competing in the "open" division. I got to briefly visit with Joe Davidson of Royal Oak while he was prepping his chicken for the competition. Royal Oak is one of the sponsors of the BBQ Tour so I recognized the grill that we use on stage as the same one he had in his booth. I even found Joey and wished him luck for the day. He still had a huge grin on his face. Hmmm... Grand Champion of the American Royal... I'd be smilin' too!
Mike & Chris