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Jeremy Gaston/Herald-Chronicle
Robert Marion, 2 Worthless Nuts, accepts the grand champion banner, trophy and prize from contest organizer Corey Linton.

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From staff reports

OSAGE CITY—Robert Marion, Hipple, Ohio, received numerous high fives from fellow cookers as he made his way up to announcer Corey Linton to claim the grand prize in the ninth annual Smoke in the Spring State Barbecue Competition Saturday in Osage City.
“It’s fun to see these guys win,” said Linton, director of Osage City Parks and Recreation, host of the contest.

Marion’s crew, 2 Worthless Nuts, racked up top honors and top pay, taking home $3,250 in prize money from the contest. He added to the $2,500 grand prize by winning the chicken class with a perfect 180 score, receiving the highest score possible in the appearance, taste and texture categories. Marion was also third in the pork class, 13th in brisket and 22nd in ribs out of the 82 teams that competed last weekend.

Ponderosa BBQ, Des Moines, Iowa, earned the Reserve Champion title, placing fifth in chicken, seventh in ribs and fourth in pork. Ponderosa BBQ had 684.5718 total points, about seven points less than 2 Worthless Nuts with 691.4286 team points.

Other class winners were Smokey D’s BBQ, Des Moines, Iowa, which placed first in pork with a perfect 180 score; Spitfire, Fargo, N.D., which won the pork class; and Early Bird BBQ, which won the ribs class.

Ribs N Bibs, run by Cory Walquist, Osage City, placed first in the cook’s choice category; and Wildcatters Q Crew, Enid, Okla., won the dessert category. Wildcatters, along with Smoke’N Babes BBQ, Olathe, Big O’s BBQ, Kansas City, Mo., and Whiskey Ribber BBQ, Osage City, all topped the category with perfect scores.

Michael McCartney, 10, Topeka, won the 10-and-under division of the Kids-Q; Quintan Finan, 11, Osage City, placed first in the 11-and-over division.

Rob and Tiffany Dunham, Osage City, of Barkin Dawgs BBQ, were this year’s winner of The Osage County Herald-Chronicle’s traveling trophy, presented to the top points-earner among Osage County’s barbecue teams. The trophy will be engraved with the team’s name and passed on to next year’s winner. The winner also receives free entry into next year’s Smoke in the Spring.

Fantastic, wonderful contest

Linton said the contest ran smoothly this year, despite a cooling rain on Saturday morning.

“It was fantastic, wonderful,” Linton said Monday as he recovered from the weekend’s activities. In its ninth year, contest volunteers know their responsibilities, he said, which simplifies his job of organizing it.

“The volunteers do such a great job, it makes both days so easy,” Linton said. “That allows me to enjoy the weekend, talking to teams and welcoming people to Osage City.”

Linton said 82 teams competed in the contest this year, and he heard nothing but accolades for organizers and volunteers from barbecue team members and the 84 judges enlisted for the event.

Linton said the dedication of Dave Azwell, who recruits judges and table captains for the contest, results in some of the best barbecue teams in the country attending the event.

Azwell, who was recognized by members of the Kansas City Barbeque Society for his goodwill toward the barbecue community, attempts to recruit as many certified barbecue judges as possible for the event. This year’s event boasted more than 90 percent certified barbecue judges, with about 60 percent of those being master certified barbecue judges.

KCBS offers classes to certify barbecue judges for contests held around the country. Certified judges become master judges by judging 30 contests and participating in a contest with a barbecue team.

This year, teams came from Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Iowa, North Dakota and Ohio to compete. Linton said at least six of KCBS’s 25 top-scoring teams from last year competed at Osage City this year. The contest is also popular among cookers because of the hospitality shown to them by contest organizers, volunteers and area residents.

Taste of Osage City

The weekend’s events began Friday night as barbecue lovers gathered at Jones Park for the Taste of Osage City, during which selected barbecue teams demonstrated their cooking skills by selling smoked meat and other unique food items.

The food is purchased with BBQ Bucks, which are sold for $1 each. Cooks set prices for the food items they offer, and earn 90 percent of the value of the BBQ Bucks they redeem.

Linton said 23 teams participated in the Taste of Osage City this year, and more than 10,000 BBQ Bucks were sold.

The evening barbecue feast was followed by live music in the recreation building, presented by Backyard Legend. The band played late into the evening, entertaining attendees with classic rock, blues and country music.

Kids-Q Winners

Kids-Q 10-and-under – 1. Michael McCartney, 10, Topeka, 2. Emma Maim, 9, 3. Kennedy Cleaver, 9, Shawnee, 4. Keaton Curley, 6, Osage City, 5. Josie Thompson, 9, Osage City, 6. Adrian Hazelwood, 6, 7. Kingston Leonard, 6, Topeka, 8. Nick Kelly, 10, 9. Faith Jacobs, 10, 10. Brevin Flory, 9, Lawrence, 11. Madelyn Cleaver, 6, Shawnee, 12. Isabella Brown, 6, Enid, Okla., 13. Brady Tonar, 5, 14. Karter Carlson, 10, Wamego, 15. Garrett Hawthorne, 7, Olathe, 16. Brant Dayhoff, 10 Osage City, 17. Lauren Groneman, 9, Kansas City, 18. Eva Maim, 6, 19. Maison Flory, 6, Lawrence.

Kids-Q 11-and-over – 1. Quintan Finan, 11, Osage City, 2. Kaylee Cleaver, 11, Shawnee, 3. Kaylin Groneman, 11, Kansas City, 4. Brayden McDowell, 12, 5. Jace Keim, 11, 6. Jonathan Wise, 11, Independence, Mo.