What more can you ask for when it comes to fine BBQ festivals in Kansas than one of the State’s lesser-known BBQ competitions. You may not have heard of the Great Lenexa BBA Battle before, however, there is no reason to not attend this year’s proud return to the Sunflower State once again. Here’s everything you need to know about what to expect at this year’s Kansas State Championship.
A growing tradition of Kansas BBQ Pride
You might find this hard to believe, but the Great Lenexa BBQ Battle started back in 1982 as an obscure barbecue cooking competition. There were only a total of 12 contestants who gathered together and were given titles and awards by just 12 attending judges. Yet, from the state that has made the American Royal World Series of Barbecue practically a religious pilgrimage for BBQ fans, the Great Lenexa BBQ Battle was still considered small peanuts.
It was all due to the efforts of (then) Governor John Carlin, who was impressed by this unlikely underdog of BBQ competitions, a chance to represent their State. He declared officially on April 27th, 1984, that this competition was now the official Kansas State Championship cook-off that would then go on to rival the American Royal WSB. As a result, it attracted top BBQ chefs and home cooks from all over the country to attend and compete.
And though the American Royal WSB started in 1980, more people have heard of this BBQ competition than the Great Lenexa BBQ Battle by name only. That doesn’t mean that one is better than the other, they’re both outstanding Kansas BBQ cook-offs. You might say that with only a mere 200 barbecue teams strutting their stuff to gain the big titles, the Lenexa cook-off is no small affair by far!
What’s happening this year?
This year, the Great Lenexa BBQ Battle is being held from June 24th through 25th will welcome back competitors and hungry guests for two days of everything barbecue. The categories are pretty standard and include BBQ specialties for brisket, pork, pork ribs, and chicken. There’s also a fair share of music performances, and even a kid’s zone to keep the kiddos happy. But that’s not all, since Saturday is when everyone gets a chance to sample free BBQ from the competitors!
Since last year, they had to keep in line with the pandemic regulations so there was no public access to the team cook-off area. This year will likely see a thankful return to team-only areas to get an up-close and personal chat with this year’s hopefuls. There is certainly a festival aspect to this event that gives any BBQ competition real charm. There are also private team parties that you can attend by invitation only if you know some of the teams.
In 2020, this was the first time that this festival needed to be canceled due to health concerns but obviously sprang back in 2021. There is prize money for competitors that will be set according to the three top slots. These include Grand Champion, Reserve Grand Champion, and 3rd Overall Winner. Grand Champs will enjoy a full-size banner, ribbon, and a $3000 check while 2nd place champ gets a ribbon and a check for $1,750.
The third place isn’t too shabby with a ribbon and a check for $1,250. They have also added a secondary award for each category that ranges from $550 down to $50 in gift cards for winners from the 1-10th place. All contestants must follow the KCBS_RULES so they don’t get disqualified. Ironically, this includes minor infractions such as keeping their drinks within their booth area or excessive noise after 11pm to 7am for contestant booths.
Does it cost anything to attend?
On the first day of this event (Which is Friday) June 24, the entry fee is just $5 for general admission. On Saturday, the admission fee is totally free, which also is when the big winners are announced. There will be plenty of vendors selling BBQ food and drink on both days so you can expect nothing but the best.
If you’re lucky, you can schmooze your way into some private event parties that many of the competitors are sponsoring until 11pm on Friday night. Be sure to plan your trip soo for the best prices on staying in Lenexa for 2 days.