ONE of the most prestigious BBQ/Smoking competitions in the nation (it used to be THE most prestigious, but it became very political and failed to evolve with trends... but I digress) is held in my own back yard, just a rare quick trip out of my Cul de Sac. If you have never heard of the American Royal, over 400 teams from across the nation, Canada and several from around the world gather in early October to show off, compete and have a great time. They do this right here in Kansas City (another example of why Kansas is indeed god's Country).
I have great respect for competitive BBQers, but I am not going to be one of them. I am just too cheap to pay the fees to compete. But those that do really take this stuff serious...
OK, I have a cheap camera, and did not expect to go this year (my wife is out of town visiting my mother-in-law). But at the last minute, my neighbors, Jim and Herme asked me to go with them. They had never been, so I was happy to act as guide. Sadly, my wife took the "good" camera with her to South Dakota. So, I apologise in advance for the bad shots...
First thing you see when you arrive is smoke... Lovely, Beautiful, inspirational smoke!
The Royal is a three day event. Friday night is all about party time! Several of teams hire bands, make LOTS of extra BBQ to feed family, friends and drunks that wonder into their tents. As many as 80,000 Kansans (and a few Missourians) attend the party night. I have always attended the Royal on Friday, so it was a shock to attend on Saturday night instead. Saturday is all about prepping for the competition. Very few parties are happening, and the smoke is in the air, as you can smell the Boston butts, and brisket that needs hours of low and slow cooking in order to be ready... Beautiful and smells amazing.
Wander around the tents and you see men rubbing their meat... lots of men (and a few enlightened women, but this is a male dominated hobby). As I was saying, lots of men rubbing their meat... Rows and rows of men rubbing their meat. Joyously rubbing, enthusiastically rubbing, anticipating a great climax to their efforts; rubbing their meat. Alright, get your mind out of the gutter. This is a serious competion. Winning the Royal is a life changing experience for many.
On Friday night, there are always dozens and dozens of private parties with bands and DJs.
On Saturday night, the real work of men rubbing their meat is going on, so this was the only tent that had a private band... They were very good.
But, of course the RUB ME TENDER team (every team has a clever name about pigs, swine, meat, rub or some variation on the hobby) had a karaoke ELVIS!
My neighbor Jim got some impersonation instructions...
Elvis was working for tips...
My neighbor Herme was working Elvis (it was a win win for all (except Herme's husband, Jim)).
A few of the bigger outfits were selling food. These people were mostly pushing their sauce and rubs, but if you were hungry, there was certainly lots of food for you.
You will get smoker envy wandering around. Some smokers are as big as small trailers, with enough room to cook 2 cows (according to one sign). It was nice to see several teams cooking on the exact same smoker that I own. And many had novelty smokers... She wasn't fired up, but when this pink pig is smoking, the smoke comes out her nostrils.
This is serious business, and for some, it is an all consuming lifestyle choice. There are more than 300 sanctioned competitions around the US and Canada. Lots of teams travel almost every weekend to one place or the other during the "season". This guy (sorry, I didn't take notes) painted his truck with great graphics. Imagine having this coming at you in your rear view mirror.
There was one main stage set up that the Royal pays for and schedules. When we first arrived, there was a fabulous "EAGLES" tribute band. We stayed and watched through Witchy Woman, Lyin' Eyes, Desperado, Tequila Sunrise and of course, Hotel California.
Then a different band switched to "AC/DC" HEADBANGIN tribute...
My neighbor Jim had actually attended an AC/DC concert, and he gave them great reviews, and was in hog heaven (although, come to think of it, with all those smokers running, I would think the Royal is hog Hell... But I digress).
Even I... Elvis fan ... Sinatra lover ... Singer of show tunes...
Even I ...
I ROCKED ON WITH MY BAD SELF... (that's me) For at least a brief time, I was a headbanger out of the closet (with a wink and a nod to those headbangers trapped in the closets of their own designs)!
I thought the whole thing was groovy
AND out of sight
AND out of sight
R, CAG and G... Good Talk