Barbecue event brings out local enthusiasts

June 7, 2011

Curtis Oroke loves to prepare meats for barbecue competitions and various Tonganoxie community events.

But Oroke, who created Hemphill Smokers about 10 years ago, said there’s another reason he partakes in the hobby.

“Stress management,” Oroke said with a smile. “I’m able to get out of the house.”

Hemphill Smokers was one of many teams competing at the 20th annual McLouth BBQ Blowout on Saturday at McLouth’s Prairie Park. The contest is a Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned event.

Oroke and brother-in-law Mark Himpel have been involved in the hobby for a decade. Also on the team is Chad Wilson. All of them were getting meats — chicken, ribs, brisket, pork and sausage — ready for judges.

Oroke said it’s always a work in progress preparing the meats, with brisket being the most difficult. He said there are various factors, such as the cut of meat, that play into a successful plate of brisket.

All in all, Oroke said he enjoys the competitions — the group normally participates in four or five contests each year — and serving food in the community. The group serves at various fundraisers, such as the Tonganoxie High School Booster Club stand for THS football games, and other events.

Down the road of barbecue competitors from Hemphill Smokers, a group of Jayhawk enthusiasts said they started their barbecue hobby at a Lawrence-area church cook-off a few years ago.

“We found out we didn’t know how to cook,” said Tim Flory, one of three Lawrence-area men who make up the barbecue team of Crimson and Blue BBQ Crew.

Now Flory and teammates Bill Walker and Jeremy Douglass attend 18 barbecue contests each year.

This was the group's third year at the McLouth event.

The group arrived at the event about 3 p.m. Friday afternoon and set up shop with their camper and various smokers. At 4 a.m., they started preparing their entries in their smokers. Early Saturday afternoon, the group was preparing a container of meat for judges. Flory said good presentation was imperative — and putting a little extra meat on the plate for the local judges.

The strategy might have helped the team — the friends finished eighth overall at the contest, with KC Smoke Dawgs taking the top spot of grand champion.

It’s an “expensive hobby,” Flory said, as Douglass estimated it costs about $10,000 per year in expenses associated with all of the nearly 20 contests. The team does offset some of the costs with winnings at contests, Flory noted.

The friends always head each January to Lakeland, Fla., for a contest there, which is the first KCBS-sanctioned event of the year.

The reason?

“Get the hell out of Kansas in January,” Flory said with a laugh.

The team also sells its product at various events.

The barbecue cook-off Saturday had other offerings, including inflatable games for children, vendors, a petting zoo and horse rides and a firemen’s tug-of-war. The tug-of-war, sponsored by the McLouth Fire Department, involved two people at opposite ends, each equipped with fire hoses, attempting to push an old keg across a horizontal cable several feet in the air.

McLouth BBQ Blowout results

Grand champion: KC Smoke Dawgs

Reserve champion: "T's" Smokin Pit

Third place: Blackeye BBQ

Fourth place: Smoke-N-Things

Fifth Place: Pig Newton

Sixth Place: Smokin' R's

Seventh Place: Eatin’ Ain’t Cheatin’

Eighth Place: Crimson & Blue BBQ

Ninth Place: Pig Pen

10th Place: Make 'M Squeal BBQ

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