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Hillsboro barbecue expands beyond competition

Staff writer

The first-ever Prairie Smokin’ Barbecue Competition won’t be held at Marion County Fair Grounds until May 4, but the anticipation is building for organizers and competitors alike.

“We’ll be thrilled if we have 250 to 300 people,” said Anthony Roy, Hillsboro’s economic development director. “That’s definitely doable.”

Roy is organizing the event alongside competitor Troy Tate. Tate’s availability is limited because he lives in Belle Plain and drives for FedEx, but he said it’s good to help out where possible.

“I like seeing events like this,” he said. “I’d like to help out a lot more. It’s so much fun, everyone has a blast doing it.”

Tate said he has contacts across Kansas and Oklahoma because he is a veteran of many barbecue competitions.

“You start broadcasting as much as you can and pray for a good turnout,” he said. “The first year putting one on is always the toughest. After that, people see it and say, “when are we going to do it again?’ It just blossoms.”

The $500 prize money provides an incentive, but skill level of other competitors is also a motivator, Tate said.

“When you put out prize money and trophies, who doesn’t like money,” he said. “You come out here and give it your all. You either win or don’t, but everybody has so much fun.”

It will be the third barbecue competition Tate says he has organized, but he has been competing since 2012.

“To get people involved, you just have to let them sit back and watch,” he said. “The next thing you know, they’re like, ‘holy smokes, how do I do this?’ ”

While it was planned as just a barbecue, the event has grown beyond the original designs of its planners.

There will also be a $5 pass to the adjacent Mennonite museum for kids’ activities, live music from country artist Weston Price, animal vaccinations given by a vet clinic, and a Drive to Feed fundraiser from Countryside Feed, Roy said.

“We tried to offer a good variety for the audience,” he said. “It’s definitely geared toward people who love barbecue and families with kids.”

Tickets will cost $10 a meal, and children ages 5 or younger eat free. Despite the expected popularity, there specific plans for the event next year, Roy said.

The 10 teams registered so far will compete in categories for 15 to 20 pound brisket, spare ribs, and rope sausages, which will be sampled by 6 to 9 judges chosen from the local area.

“If there are people in the community who are professional judges we’d probably take them,” Roy said. “We’re really looking for community people who like barbecue.”

The competition will be a new experience local resident Kevin Suderman said. He said the fact the event was in Hillsboro convinced him to enter.

“I don’t have a favorite or one I think I’m better at,” Suderman said. “Making pork butts and shoulders for pulled pork is probably the easiest. Brisket just takes a really long time to do it right.”

Suderman, who co-owns Hillsboro Hardware with his wife, traveling for a competition would be too much of a time investment.

“I’m interested in it, but it might not be something I ever invest a lot of time in because I don’t have time,” he said. “I wanted to support the community and have a good time. It’s always fun to try new stuff.”

Last modified April 24, 2019

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