We're often asked about which contests are our favorites. We can typically find something goodin about every contest we cook. Then there are the events that just stand out. The Mason City event is one of those stand outs. After returning home last Saturday, I received an e-mail from a fellow competitor who is a long established cook but who had entered this event for the first time. His note simply said "What a great contest. Wish they were all like this one." That pretty much sums up Mason City.With a commitment in Kansas City last Friday that could not be rescheduled, we didn't arrive at East Park until about 10:00PM. That in itself made this event a challange. Sheri and I definitely felt the pressure to get there, get set up, get the meat inspected and prepped and get settled in for the cook. We did all that in about an hour and in the dark. Of course, contest organizer and hostess, Ruth Miller, dropped by to check on us and deliver homemade chocolate peanut butter brownies. This was after 11:00 PM. You will not find a better, more accomodating person running a contest anywhere in the country. For those who have experienced the now gone Lebannon, Tennessee event, picture Wanda, Mary Ann, and Christine all rolled into one. That's Ruth.2009 brought 65 teams to the park, up from 50 the previous year. It's obvious to me why. We've not cooked the Up In Smoke BBQ Bash three straight years and as unbelieveable as it seems, it continues to get better. The location is a park on the east side of town with large, shady trees. There is always plenty of power. They have a fabulous group of volunteers. And, they go out of their way to make each and every team feel like they're the most important team there. They even have gifts for the teams to go along with free ice, donuts and coffee delivered to team sites in the morning and contest t-shirts for each team. Did I mention that Ruth was back by 7:00AM roaming the isles with fresh, hot coffee? Well, she was, ankle brace showing under her sandals and all. What a trooper.We cooked from our same spot as the previous year. We even had the same neighbors, including Tim and Mike of Monkey's Uncle BBQ. You couldn't ask for better neighbors, always polite and pleasant. Oh, and it didn't hurt that they made it known to us that they want to attend an Old School versus High Tech competition cooking class in 2010. In fact, I don't know why this happened, but between comments made to Johnny Trigg and me, more than a dozen people expressed sincere interest in making it to one of our classes in 2010. We'll teach four or five classes next year and we've already decided two of those will be in Kansas City and Shannon, Illinois. Check out the Pellet Envy website for details in the near future.The whole weekend there was only one faux pas. When announcing the overall, Howard started with number one instead of number ten, removing all suspense as to the winner. As for us, we received one call, second place brisket and finished eighth overall. Congrats to all the winners, espeically Bare Bones BBQ and Iowa's Own Smoky D's BBQ for their GC and RGC finish.
So I'll stop slobbering all over this contest now. One thing about arriving late and missing the Cook's meeting, you miss seeing all your friends. It wasn't until awards that I realized who all was there. In fact, we never really made it out of our spot this past weekend, and that's a shame. Additionally, we had some friends from a nearby town who made it to the event on Friday night. We missed them at the event and only saw them for a couple minutes by chance as we waited in line at a fast food drive-in just before making it to the event that evening. This weekend we cook in Laurie, Missouri. It's a long established event with close to 80 teams, but this will be our first time to cook it. See you all on the bbq trail!.By the way, the picture of the crowd from Friday night is courtesy of the Globe Gazette. For more information on the weekend, check them out.