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Smoke on the Plains Derby BBQ Fest


If you’re stumbling around downtown Derby in Kansas around June 9th and 10th this year, you’ll be glad to hear that Smoke on the Plains is back again. There’s plenty to do and loads to see, but most importantly lots more to eat when it comes to real Kansas-style BBQ. This fantastic barbecue cook-off will have live music and special events with guests for the two days this BBQ music fest will be held.

How Did Smoke On The Plains Get Started?

The National Bar-B-Cue Derby In 2011

Back in 2011, this BBQ event was ironically known by a whole other name. It was originally called The National Bar-B-Cue Derby and was planned to be held on Patriot Day in September. This event was meant specifically to honor the US military. It wasn’t as large as it has become these days and began with a Pro and backyard BBQ contest complete with an Apple pie contest and a 5K ‘Rib Run’.

They even held a Spelling Bee for the local kids of Derby to pad things out nicely. The big winners back at that time were a BBQ team from Witchita. By the next year in 2012, they added a people’s choice contest and added Cherry Pie to their pie contest. Things started to get rolling in 2013 when a chocolate chip cookie contest and car show were added. By that time, this 3-year old event was now officially sanctioned by KCBS (Kansas City BBQ Society).

By 2014, the event name was changed again to the Derby BBQ Festival. They added the Kid’s Corner play area and local food trucks as this festival grew over the years. By 2018, the event schedule dates were changed from September to June because of an Air Show that was being held at McConnel Air Force Base on the same day. By 2019, the name final changes to Smoke on the Plains Derby BBQ & Music Fest and hasn’t changed since then.

This is when carnival rides and games were added which added more things to do with the kids and grownups. Sadly in 2020, the pandemic had to be canceled but returned in 2021 which was scaled back slightly to work around COVD-19 safety distancing.

Smoke On The Planes 2023

As we gear up for a whole new Smoke on the Plains 2023 BBQ & Music Fest, you’ll be glad to know they’ve added some tantalizing extras to this year’s line-up. As if the entry fee wasn’t a drop in the bucket, the People Choice Awards certainly drew in more barbecue fans for the 2022 competition. Here’s what you can expect for 2023 and more!

What You’ll Want To Know For This Year

Smoke on the Plains 2023 BBQ & Music Fest

The funs all starts this year on June 9th and 10th at High Park in Derby, Kansas. It’ll feature the KCBS Cook-off, Backyard Barbecue Cook-off, and the iconic SCA Steak Cook-off. All competition entries must register by June 8th to register for this year’s competition. Don’t forget that the “Toss Like a Boss” Cornhole competition is still a fan favorite, while the Kid’s Corner will feature plenty of activities for the kiddies on both days.

There are the savory morning perks from 9-11am where you can find mimosas and Bloody Marys being served to the grownups likewise. Live entertainment from Harrison Steele on the main stage will help those drinks go down smoother as things in the BBQ camp really start to heat up! Thankfully, the RONA won’t be attending this year, so folks can breathe easier that social distancing and masks won’t be getting in the way of a swinging good time.

Certified BBQ Judge Class

Smoke on the Plains BBQ Judges

We’ve mentioned in the Great Lexena BBQ Battle about getting involved as a judge for BBQ cook-offs. Well, how about earning a real certification that is sanctioned by KCBS and will allow you to be an official tasting judge at other official competitions all over the country! If you’ve ever wanted to expand your knowledge about judging great BBQ and have your fill of loads of barbecue at the same time, this is an opportunity you can’t beat.

There’s no previous experience required and only asks that you be a member of KCBS to register for this unique judging class. All together- it’s just $100 for membership and class training and you’re set for joining as many BBQ judging competitions as you like! The best part is that training only takes 3 hours at the Derby City Hall in Derby, Kansas.

The Backyard Barbecue Competition

teams preparing pork butts in Smoke on the Plains BBQ & Music Fest

This isn’t exactly a new one for Smoke on the Plains, but the People’s Choice Tasting Contest is back again after popular demand. This year a total of three Pork Butts will be provided to the teams and have special provisions for competitors that want to prepare their Butts ahead of arriving at the competition. There are only 15 spots available for this competition, so getting registered is essential if you want to be part of this contest.

This year the top prizes include 5 cash payouts for the top 5 winners. The first place is $500 and the second place is $450. Third place pays $400 while fourth play is slightly lower with just $275 as a payout. Fifth place isn’t too shabby with $175 as a prize winner. You can register online and see all of the KCBS rules and regulations that go with the People’s Choice Tasting Contest.

What’s New At This Year’s Festival?

People enjoying Smoke on the Plains BBQ & Music Fest

Two days of food, fun, and entertainment are obviously part of Smoke on the Plains 2023. This year’s they’re adding Axe Throwing, a 1980s Big Hair Contest, and kids can learn how to be a princess or superhero at the Kid’s Corner. The main stage sponsored by Security 1st will be providing a variety of folk, country, blues, bluegrass, and 80s rock for the entire 2 days with special guests to be announced. Don’t forget to bring your lawn chair and all your friends!

Smoke On The Plains – 2022 Results

This year was certainly a real smoker and not just in one single category either! Luckily for some very talented folks at this year’s Smoke on the Plains barbecue competition. Now, as you all might know, the events were split into two sections respectfully. The first was the Maters Series and the other was for the Backyard Barbecue. Here’s how it all went down for these Pitmaster winners.

Master Series

Master Series in Smoke on the Plains event

A total of 32 entrees entered for this year’s Master Series from all over and put their pőitmaster grilling and (perhaps) shiggin’ to good use… There were some newcomers and some old pros that joined it. It was all for fun anyway


  • 1st – The BBQ Lab
  • 2nd – BURNIN’ Sands BBQ
  • 3rd – Dr. Squealgood BBQ

Pork Ribs

  • 2nd – HOLLOW Q


  • 1st – Dr. Squealgood BBQ
  • 3rd – OMG Barbecue


  • 1st – HOLLOW Q

Backyard Series

Backyard Series in Smoke on the Plains event

With only a skeleton crew of 20 entrees, the Backyard Series could not have gotten a better welcome at this year’s Smoke on the Plains. Then again with only Chicken or Ribs, most pros who have that special talent for making magic happen might otherwise be afraid to enter this realm of BBQ purgatory. Here’s who took the big wins this year:


  • 1st – Complete BBQ Team
  • 2nd – Too Sauced BBQ


  • 1st – O’Town Que
  • 2nd – Swine-O-Licious BBQ
  • 3rd – Complete BBQ Team

Overall Scores- Masters Series

  • 2nd – Dr. Squealgood BBQ
  • 3rd – HOLLOW Q

Overall Scores- Backyard Series

  • 1st – Complete BBQ Team
  • 2nd – Too Sauced BBQ
  • 3rd – O’Town Que

Now, that might be the end of the story- except for something that played a very important role in this cook-off competition. And if you guessed the SCA-sanctioned Steak Cookoff, you would be totally right! This event was held on June 10th for part of the late afternoon and gave some winning results along with prizes and cash awards. Here’s who performed the best:

2022 winners:

  • 1st – Ben Maddox – $1000 (Plus 1st place ribbon)
  • 2nd – Buddy King – $500 (Plus 2nd place ribbon)
  • 3rd – Crystal Gilleland – $400 (Plus 3rd place ribbon)

Now, this wasn’t just about cooking the best steak since everyone who entered (about 10 in all) paid an entry fee of $150 just to take part. Prizes and cash awards went up to 6th place which is pretty fair for just 10 entrees. It seems that 6th place took home $100, so it wasn’t a total bust after all. With as much people interested in showing what they could do for SCA-sponsored steak cook-offs, this was a nice foot in the door for some!

Cornhole Tournament

Cornhole Tournament in Smoke on the Plains event

We surely wish we could give you some of the winning teams here but you might do better just laughing a bit from the coverage we dug up on Facebook. Everyone had a great time and the awards this year gave out prizes for the 1st and 2nd best teams. As you might have guessed, the Sponsor was Shaken and Stirred Bartending which had everyone a bit tipsy by the time this competition got around to judging.

People’s Choice Awards

People’s Choice concert in Smoke on the Plains event

Back by popular demand, this one was an instant hit this year with outstanding interest and entrees from many of this year’s attendees. Well, for just $5, this gave sample tasting for 6 various 2-ounce samples from the pulled pork competition. Not only could everyone vote on their favorite pork, but folks could also see if their picks matched the actual judged winners. Either way, it was certainly worth tasting some very fine award-winning pork on this day.

Food and Drink

Mobile food trucks

There were certainly plenty of Bloody Marys and Mimosas each day from 9 to 11 am for both days of this event. And just in time, since this year’s Kid’s Corner opened at 9am! And there were no shy locals who were very happy to come down to provide plenty of food and drink from more than 13 mobile food trucks that helped support this feature event. Even though it wasn’t a real sweltering day, people kept cool and calm with all the festivities.

Archive: Previous Coverage of the Upcoming Smoke on the Plains for 2022

People tasting BBQ from food trucks

This year, you’ll be happy to hear that there will be the backyard BBQ cook-off, SCA Steak cook-off, beer garden, food trucks, Kid’s Corner, Corn Hole Tournament, live music, and much more. This time it will be presented by Rock Regional Hospital and will return to the genuinely scenic High Park in Derby. Over two days, each day will offer something different but the second day is dedicated to most of the serious BBQ action.

They’ve added a special $5 tasting kits for those who want to get samples from the food trucks and also from the People’s Choice contest. The first day only begins from 6 to 9pm so it’s just a taste of what the second day will have to offer. The next day this festival shifts into high gear with Bloody Marys and Mimosas from 9-11am. There will be live music from 9am to 2pm, and then from 6 to 10 pm after that. The two separate BBQ groups will also include the Pro and Backyard divisions.

There are a total of 9 pitmasters in the Pro cook-off and 6 within the Backyard teams. The awards will be announced at 3pm to reveal the winners. Since this is an officially sanctioned KCBS event, all of the competitors will need to follow the official cook-off rules. And while you can’t just get a taste of their food so easily, this is where the tasting kit will give you instant access to their tasty winning creations. Since there are more than 9 festival food vendors, you won’t need to starve since they all offer everything from breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Safety Considerations

10-11 June Smoke on the Plains BBQ & Music Fest

As many states are finally rolling back Pandemic restrictions, there doesn’t appear to much need to socially distance as they needed to in 2021. While masks are optional, it’s a matter of how comfortable you feel about being in public. And since more and more people are excited to come back to Smoke on the Plains BBQ & Music Fest this June 10-11 this year.

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