It was probably in our first year of competing in KCBS sanctioned barbecue contests that we decided we would not go to the American Royal until we earned an invite. To earn a spot in the invitational, a team must win a grand championship at a qualifying contest between August 1st and July 31st of the preceding year. We won our first grand championship in September this year, which means we will get to attend the 2014 American Royal Invitational.
A couple weeks ago we were approached about helping spread the word about Operation BBQ Relief at this year’s Royal, and of course we were happy to help support such a great cause. Plans were made and we headed out around 6am Friday morning. We got parked and met one of the group at the gate for our wristbands and we were at The Royal for the first time ever! After we met up with the group we had a little time to explore, so we started looking up some of our friends that were there. We got there just in time to participate in good luck shots with our friends at site of Kelly of 4 Legs Up.
The first thing that we noticed is that it is a maze of cookers. There were about 175 teams cooking the invitational, and I’m guessing that half of the additional 400 teams there for the open contest were already in their spots. There were alleys between the rows of cook teams, some were open on both ends and some were dead ends. And none were marked. But this isn’t their first year so there are several signs with all the teams and which spot they are in, along with a map to help you find your way. It would have been helpful to have one of those “You are here” X marks the spot kind of thing on each map, but one could find a nearby spot number and go off of that. With teams packed in an area covering approximately 20 acres it’s not hard to lose your way.
We grabbed several packets of stickers, pamphlets, and temporary tattoos and headed out to spread the word about OBR. We did figure out that the contestant turn in area is on Beef Run when we saw some of our friends with their entries:
Contestants making their way to the turn in area for judging on Beef Run
We also got a shot of the turn in area inside. We have seen pictures and this area will be filled on Sunday when 500 teams are getting their food turned in during that magic 10 minute window.
the turn in area.
We stayed out of Lot B since that is where most of the invitational participants are located and hit as many of the other spots as we could. It pays to keep your eyes open as you’re walking around, in the North Lot was a team called Motley Que who had a special guest visiting; Guy Fieri! We didn’t go talk to him but one of our friends got his picture taken with Guy later in the day. One of the barbecue celebrities we did get to meet was Myron Mixon. Although he always seems to be very grouchy on TV, he was as nice as could be to us We also met Dionn and Gary Lanton who were on season 3 of BBQ Pitmasters, as well as Brad Orrisan and Daddy-O from The Shed BBQ joint and who have a TV show.
We also saw several other of the TV Pitmasters, including Danielle with DivaQ, Johnny Trigg, Chris Lilly, Rod Gray, Lynnae Oxley, and David Butcher. Of course we have competed against some of them before, a couple on a regular basis, and are friends with David. We were no less thrilled to see some of our usual friends; JP, Chad & Nicole, Scot & Rocky, Stuart, Robbie & Jessica, Bryan & Chilly Willy, Brian & MaryAnn, Frank, Stan & Amy, Will, Travis, Richard & Kathy, Fast Eddy, all those whom I’m forgetting get my apologies, and especially Marc who looks much better than the last time we saw him.
We met and talked with many other fine folks in our travels, including a Pitt State grad who we learned graduated from the School of Business the same year I graduated with my nursing degree. Many people are familiar with OBR and we fielded lots of questions from cookers who would like to get involved. All in all, I think is was 3 hours well spent, although by the time we were done our feet were in disagreement Here are a few pictures I took of some of the grounds;
Looking north on Party Angle West.
The Royal Tunnel.
Looking north-east on Single Malt Way
We even saw one of the event volunteers sporting one of our tattoos!
A Royal volunteer showing off her OBR tattoo
We took a little time to explore the Expo Hall where we ran into more friends; Karen and Dave from Cookshack, Don from Yoder Smokers, and Shannon from Fire Bug Grilling Sauce. Inside the hall were several vendors and displays, and bounce houses for the children. There was also a petting zoo for the kids. Outside was a stage with bands performing live music.
A shot inside the Expo Hall
One of the things I noticed as we walked around was the type of smokers different teams were using. Of course I didn’t do any kind of count, but it seemed like there were as many Weber Smokey Mountain smokers there as all the others combined. Some teams had as many as 6 of the WSMs. Also well represented were the Good-One smokers. From there it was a mixture of about every smoker made, including many that were home made.
We had to leave before the party got started, but are already looking forward to being there next year! We got to talk to several of our barbecue family Saturday and next year we’ll be spending 3 or 4 days with them.