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Jeremy Gaston | Managing Editor

OSAGE CITY—The 10th annual Smoke in the Spring kicks off this weekend with the Taste of Osage City at 5 p.m. Friday, a chance for residents to purchase a taste of competition barbecue.

Another big attractor to this year’s competition will be the filming of a “BBQ Pitmasters” episode. The fifth-season series will be present throughout the contest weekend, filming a separate three-team competition alongside the Kansas City Barbecue Society sanctioned event.

“It gives us notoriety, and it gives the city a lot of promotion,” said Smoke in the Spring Committee Chairman Corey Linton. “American will find out where Osage City, Kansas is.”

The episode, which will air on the Discovery Channel specialty channel, Destination American, will air later this fall, but its filming is already attracting smokers.

“It gives our contest credibility,” Linton said. “Not that we weren’t popular before, but we now become a destination point. I’ve had several teams contact us because of ‘BBQ Pitmasters’ that may not have normally considered us.”

Linton looks for “BBQ Pitmasters” to generate some turnout from the general public, but it’s the cookers that have shown the most interest.

“There’s several teams that can’t get in the contest, but they’re coming out to see the show,” Linton said. “I have teams doing everything they can to get here.”

Contest space is limited by construction of the new track and field for USD 420, in addition to space taken up by the “BBQ Pitmasters” trailers, but that hasn’t stopped Linton from cramming 75 teams into available space.

“I’m super excited and anxious and partially terrified,” Linton said. “I don’t know what to expect, if it will be a large or small increase in people. I know they’re very anxious about coming to Osage City.”

The contest itself will have teams from Kansas, Missouri, Georgia, Iowa, Colorado and North Dakota. There will also be 12 teams competing for the Osage County Cup, awarded to the highest-placing team from Osage County.

“I would like to bring in more teams from out of state,” Linton said. “I’ve turned away close to 20 teams so far - both new and returning teams.”

The “BBQ Pitmasters” show will feature three separate teams selected by a national search from the production company.

“They won’t let me tell you who the teams are until Friday,” Linton said. “There’s one team from Portland, Ore., a team from Florida and there’s a team that was originally in Georgia, but now resides in Hawaii.

“Apparently the theme this season is to take you out of your comfort zone,” Linton said. “They’re making you travel to an area you’ve never been to before. The fact that they’re from Florida, Oregon and Hawaii, that’s the cool thing. I can add that to my resume. We’ll now have had teams from 15 states.”

The contest resume also includes five teams, past and present, that have competed on “BBQ Pitmasters” episodes. Linton looks for the hype to spill over into the Taste of Osage City sales Friday, drawing record numbers to the event.

“I think, conservatively, we get about 1,500 people out here in a given year,” Linton said. “I can see a little more attraction. I anticipate at least 12,000 BBQ Bucks brought in because of the added ‘BBQ Pitmasters’ attraction. I think people will want to come out and meet them, to see the teams that are brought in to cook their episode. I could see 15,000.

“We attract a large number of people in general,” Linton said. “We’re promoting this a lot more. We’re doing radio and we’re also going to be on television. I’m extending the promotion of the event. Word of mouth has been pretty good. Friends, family coming in, even from out of state, fans of the TV show.

“The teams cooking have really embraced the fact that ‘BBQ Pitmasters’ is going to be there, and they’re cooking for that. Hopefully the barbecue will last. They’re planning on bringing a lot of stuff.”

• For more information on the car show, visit www.cruisnandcookn.com; for more information on the contest, visit www.smokeinthespring.com.