Luckily, nobody posed that question to us while in Great Bend, Kansas last weekend. Someone might have come unglued had they been asked. At 5:30 PM on Friday, the temperature was 111.1 in the shade of our canopy. Imagine sticking your face into a hot bbq pit about then. As we cooked for the brisket invitational last Friday, I could feel myself aging. Seriously, that heat just sucked the life right out of us. Several people who cooked Great Bend this year were still recovering on Sunday and Monday, and it was unanimous that the Central Kansas Barbecue Cook-off was the hottest contest we've ever cooked. Adding insult to injury, a quick moving, severe storm popped up about 1:15 AM on Friday morning and took out a few EZ-Ups plus in a 36 hour period the wind blew 15 - 20 MPH FROM ALL FOUR DIRECTIONS.This was our seventh year to cook on the tarmac in Barton County. We've always enjoyed this event, even though historically the judges have roughed us up a bit. Kent Romine has a great staff of volunteers and he does his best to meet everyone's needs and make them feel welcome. From great power, free ice and t-shirts, to all day passes for the kids to ride everything they want at the Barton County Fair, the small things are not forgotten. This year was no different.We traveled light, cooking under a canopy with the Jambo. In addition to the heat making the cook more challenging, the lack of space and organization adds another layer. Thankfully, our friends and neighbors were there to help us out. For whatever reason, this past weekend we needed a lot of help. Special thanks to our neighbors Chris and Jana of Early Bird BBQ. Our fan died early Friday. So they loaned us one. If really came in handy. Chris also helped keep us cool with Pickle pops. If you haven't had one, you need to try it. I'd say it's an acquired taste. Also, thank you to Andy and Kim of Plowboys BBQ, errrrrrr Smoke On Wheels. In addition to hosting the Friday night Mexican bonanza, Andy created a misting tent complete with a misting fan. That canopy might have been the busiest spot at the contest. A big thanks to Steph of TheSlabs.com for organizing both the dinner and Saturday breakfast. Oh, and thanks to Eric and Greg of Ribs 4 U for having just what I needed to get through the contest. Greg threatened to make me a gin and tonic out in Great Bend. I'm going hold him to that next time we're at the same event. Kelly of Four Legs Up deserves a big thanks as well. He hosts the good luck shot of Gentleman Jack about everywhere I go. This weekend he hosted twice. Finally, thanks to our other neighbors Lee and Kathy of Dawghouse BBQ. With Sheri traveling back and forth to and from the hotel, a couple times I found myself without something and Lee was quick to save the day. Plus, Lee and Kathy hosted breakfast and despite being empty handed, they allowed me to dine with the group. Great neighbors.Despite a dismal finish in the Chest to Chest National Brisket invitational (don't ask - 16th out of 17 entries), we rebounded nicely, winning the Central Kansas Barbecue Cook-off including a 5th place finish in chicken, 2nd place finish in Ribs and winning the Brisket category. "What did I change about my brisket from day one to day two?" you might wonder. Not a damn thing. My teaching partner Johnny Trigg has a saying for situations like this one. It goes something like this - "They liked it so well today, they're going to get more of the same tomorrow," and that exactly what I did. Funny how that works out.The winner of the brisket category at the KCBS sanctioned event and the Grand Champion of the event are both invited to the 2010 Chest to Chest. So we're doubly qualified. But that presents a unique problem. We're also qualified for the Butt to Butt XII held in conjunction with the Illinois State Championship in Shannon, IL on the same weekend next year. I don't even want to think about that choice right now. Maybe after I recover from the self prescribed heat stroke like symptoms.
This weekend is the Iowa double header with events in Waterloo and La Porte. Luckily, the towns are only about fifteen miles apart. We enjoyed these events last year, and not just because we won them both. Both are set in town parks and both had, warm, small town type atmosphere. Good luck to everyone competing this weekend. See you all on the bbq trail!