McPherson Scottish Highland Games 2013

As I start today’s blog there is laundry going and a trailer and smokers waiting to be cleaned from a busy weekend, but one of our favorite events of the year. It was the last weekend of September which means…….. McPherson Scottish Highland Games!
This is our fifth year feeding the athletes and each year it gets harder to uphold our reputation. The athletes and staff always say that lunch is one of the things they look forward to the most at Mac. We enjoy spending time with them and have become good friends with several. Besides, we get to set up on the field and have the best seat in the house once we get time to watch.
We have watched these folks perform the events many times and have developed the utmost respect for their athletic ability. There is nothing easy about these games! They require a combination of strength, technique and timing that rivals any other professional sport.
One that often makes me a little nervous is the Weight Over Bar competition. The athletes swing a weight over a bar positioned behind them and I always worry about one getting hit on top of their head. I guess that’s the nurse coming out. In this photo you see Terri just after the weight has left her hand:

Weight Over Bar

Weight Over Bar

As we all know; what goes up, must come down. So far we haven’t seen anyone get bonked on the head, thankfully!
Another event for height is the Sheath toss, where the athletes use a pitchfork to toss a straw filled burlap bag over a bar. Here one of the contestants has tossed the sheath and has already brought his fork back down while the sheath is on its way up:

Sheath toss

Sheath toss

Some of these guys were throwing over 30 feet high with a 22 pound sheath!
One of the hallmarks of the games is the caber toss. Here Terri is set to toss the caber:

Our friend Terri as she tosses the caber

Our friend Terri as she tosses the caber

Of note is the fact the she was photobombed by her husband in the background. He’s the one in the green shirt with the camera :)
The athletes compete in 9 events, many times there are at least 4 events going on simultaneously as the athletes are split into different groups based on sex, age, and experience. Here I caught a caber in midair while I was taking a picture of a sheath in the air:

A caber and sheath sharing airspace

A caber and sheath sharing airspace

For the second year the announcer was Francis Brebner, a true Scotsman who competed in Highland games for 18 years and still holds 2 World Records. Although Francis has lived in California for the last ten years he still has a thick Scottish accent which makes you listen carefully so that you can understand what he is saying. Although he has retired from competitive Highland gaming, Francis still puts on coaching clinics, judges, serves as an announcer at games all over the world, and is an author.

Francis Brebner

Francis Brebner

Francis is a true gentleman and we looked forward to getting to see him again. We were also a little nervous as we were attempting a traditional Scottish dish of Haggis, Tatties and Neeps to feed a Scot. After lunch he gave us a thumbs up so we knew we did OK. Many of the athletes had never eaten Haggis but did try it. We had lots of comments along the lines of “It wasn’t as bad as I expected”, or “It was actually pretty good”. We even had some come back for seconds. Now just in case you go Google Haggis, I did not prepare it in the traditional manner or even use traditional ingredients. But it’s my understanding that many in Scotland don’t prepare it that way anymore either.

Haggis

Haggis

We always try to feed the athletes a combination of proteins and carbohydrates, Sunday’s lunch was; from far to near: rib tips, smoked Mac&Cheese, tatties and neeps. Not in the pictures was the Haggis, barbecue beans, and ham.

Part of Sunday's lunch

Part of Sunday’s lunch

And around the corner was the fruit salad, brownies and home made ice cream. There’s always room for dessert!

Dessert

Dessert

And a couple pictures of the serving line and the athletes enjoying the food:

The serving line

The serving line

Lunch break

Lunch break

The weekend was a success not only from our standpoint, but they could not have asked for better weather and the athletes set several records during the 2 day event. For more pictures, check out our friend Larry’s page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pioneer-Photography/146925568684529
Next weekend we will be spending a day at the American Royal helping to promote one of our passions, Operation Barbecue Relief. We’ll also be checking out the event as we will be competing there next year.
After that we’ll have a couple more competitions, then hopefully start teaching some classes over the winter.
Thanks for reading,
Greg

Hay Capital BBQ Cook Off

This past weekend we attended the 5th Annual Hay Capital BBQ Cook Off in Yates Center, Kansas. We were one of the charter members that were at their first contest and have not missed one since. We enjoy going there, they like the teams and take care of us. Free electric and ice, indoor bathrooms, showers and other amenities add to the fun.
This year they added something new and did a sponsor dinner, where people from the community get fed by a competition team in return for a donation to the contest. We had 8 guests for supper and enjoyed visiting with them. They seemed pleased with the food, and this was reinforced on Saturday when the organizer said they have already requested us for next year!
Adding to the fun of the weekend, we were accompanied by David and Aquila who were doing their cook that will enable them to become certified KCBS Master Judges. They got to experience most of what a competition team goes through; they were there at noon Friday, slept in their car next to us and were back up at 5am to finish the day. They gained a new appreciation of what the cooks put in to those 6 pieces of meat that the judges sample.

And if all that wasn’t enough, Kristi’s Naughty Nurses 2nd Shift came out of retirement to cook as a separate team to help the organizer reach the necessary 25 teams. So to recap, we were cooking for guests Friday night, teaching a couple about competition barbecue, and cooking as separate teams. Whew, busy weekend.

The sponsor dinner was really fairly easy, we cooked  Moinks as an appetizer and the main meal consisted of pork loin, garlic mashed potatoes and corn. For dessert we finished it off with home made cobbler that Aquila made and ice cream. Left over cobbler and ice cream were enjoyed again Saturday by us and some of our neighbors after we were done with turn-ins.

Once that was done we split up with boys vs girls for the competition. But we did remain on friendly terms and even helped each other out when needed, just like we would a new team. Kristi and Aquila got the FEC100 and David and I used WSMs. We both followed our normal recipes for the most part, though we did experiment a little which ended up with some interesting things learned.For example, the ONLY thing different with our chicken entries was the cooker and fuel: pellets vs charcoal. Kristi came in 13th and Greg won the category:

1st place Chicken!

1st place Chicken!

Our ribs ended up on the same table and the judges didn’t like either one of us.
But in the pork category, Kristi came in 6th;

6th place Pork

6th place Pork

And Greg took second;

2nd place Pork

2nd place Pork

Those places were reversed in the brisket category, with Greg taking 5th place;

5th place Brisket

5th place Brisket

And Kristi took second!

2nd place Brisket

2nd place Brisket

In the end, Kristi finished 10th overall out of the 25 teams and Greg, with the help of Kristi, David and Aquila brought home our first ever Grand Champion!!

Grand Champion!

Grand Champion!

We were very excited to say the least. After we came close a few times the last couple years, we get a Reserve Grand Champion followed by Grand Champion the next week! Kristi’s hands were shaking as she filled out the paperwork that will be sent in to reserve our spot in the American Royal Invitational. We have always said we would not go the the Royal until we could do the invitational, now we’ll be there in October 2014! The other thing we should get is a chance to be drawn for the Jack Daniels Invitational. For The Jack, the winner of every qualifying contest gets a chance to get their name drawn. Getting your ‘bung’ pulled is the highlight for many teams. Of course we could just win 6 more contests between now and next July and get and automatic bid!
We didn’t have much time to visit friends, but it was good to see them again none the less. We also met some new friends and hope to see them again on the barbecue trail.

Our next event will be in McPherson where we’ll spend the weekend with our Scottish Highland friends.

2013 National Bar-B-Que Derby

This past weekend was another first time contest for us, and another that was marking their first year as a KCBS sanctioned contest. This time we were in Derby Kansas for the National Bar-B-Que Derby.
The contest was held in High Park, a picturesque city park on the east side of town. There is a small lake, a runway for remote controlled airplanes, indoor bathrooms and a stage, among other amenities. The only thing I can find to complain about was everything sloped towards the lake, and I didn’t have enough of the right thickness of shims to level everything we had outside. Otherwise, the venue was fantastic! The City of Derby went above and beyond to meet the needs of the cookers. There were several electrical boxes and at least 2 water “trees” each with 4 hose connections. Next year we’ll take our mister and take advantage of one of those if it’s this hot again!.
They had 10 ‘backyard’ teams and 35 professional teams. I heard they had more teams wanting to come but had to stop taking entries at 35 due to space limitations. Not a bad problem to have when many contests are struggling to get teams there.
We set up next to Brian and MaryAnn who are Smoke N Hogs BBQ KS. Friday we went for a late lunch with them to Kristi’s favorite eatery, Freddy’s. Later we all had pizza and home made ice cream along with some libations to help combat the heat. 100° is not unheard of, but still is unusual for this time of year.
Saturday morning we shared customary good luck shots with our barbecue friends, then worked on getting meats ready for People’s Choice and KCBS turn ins.
For the People’s Choice each time was assigned a helper since it was done during turn in time. Our helper was a young lady named Allee and we enjoyed having her as our helper. We gave her some samples of our chicken and ribs, she said she’s not much of a barbecue eater but really liked the chicken and said the ribs were the best she’d every had! Hmmmm, maybe I should have given her some pork and brisket too?
Saturday was another 100° day but we made it through turn ins and worked on getting stuff packed away, taking frequent breaks to cool off and hydrate.
When it came time for awards, we got a call for 2nd place in chicken!

2nd Place Chicken

2nd Place Chicken

Followed by another call for 2nd place Ribs, much to our surprise.

2nd Place Ribs

2nd Place Ribs

No calls in pork or brisket really made us nervous. As they started announcing the top 10 overall, we waited to hear our name. By the time they announced 4th place without hearing our name I looked at Kristi and commented; “either out pork and brisket were really close or really sucked”. It turns out they were both in the middle of the pack.
I wish I could have seen our faces when they announce Reserve Grand Champion; Naughty Nurses BBQ! Our highest finish to date. Talk about excited!

National Bar-B-Que Derby Reserve Grand Champions

National Bar-B-Que Derby
Reserve Grand Champions

Congratulations to our friends Little Pig Town for Grand Champs!

Next up will be Yates Center KS where we hope to improve on last years 3rd place finish.

Thanks again to those whose products help make this possible: Cookshack, JPCustom Smoke, Butcher BBQ