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BBQ, Fly-in on the River kicks off in downtown ES tonight

Local barbecue enthusiasts and even those from surrounding towns and states have been counting down the weeks, and today at 4 p.m. the gates to the 13th Annual BBQ and Fly-In on the River will open.  Located in the heart of downtown Excelsior Springs the barbecue committee has been hard at work prepping the festival area for the 70 teams competing, their families, friends and the thousands of festivalgoers who are expected to come through downtown both today and tomorrow.

The committee started early Thursday morning marking streets for each contestant’s booth area, hanging banners to recognize their many sponsors on the Hall of Waters, unloading equipment and setting up the VIP area for judges, contestants and committee members.

“We would like to thank the Excelsior Springs Museum,” said event coordinator Jim McCullough.  “They let us use the building to store our things in, water, soda, and tons of other things that keep our participants happy and help to bring them back year after year.  We would also like to thank the city of Excelsior for allowing us to use the Hall of Waters for our VIP area.  The Hall is also where the judges set up. They truly love the venue, which is one of the reasons why we are always jam packed with judges every year, it keeps them coming back.”

Later Thursday afternoon committee members began the task of placing signs throughout town leading festivalgoers and contestants to the downtown area. The committee was up late last night nailing down all of the last minute details so that everyone in attendance at this year’s contest would have all of their needs met. McCullough said that the committee’s attention to detail and their willingness to take care of all of the contestants is what keeps teams coming back to Excelsior Springs every year.

After the gates open at 4 p.m. Friday, festivalgoers can expect a packed crowd of not only onlookers but barbecuers as well.  From 4 to 6:15 p.m., local band JD and the Chasers will take the main stage in front of the Hall of Waters, where they will entertain everyone with their blues tunes with a rock and roll twist.  At 7 p.m., the annual BBQ and and Fly-In Parade will begin and stroll down Broadway Avenue with several entries including Wentworth Military Academy, the Shriners, circus clowns and more.

By 7 p.m. the sounds of Salem Road will be heard throughout downtown when they begin playing on the main stage.  Salem Road will continue playing until it is quiet time for barbecuers, at 11 p.m.  During the musical entertainment and as soon as it’s dark outside local performers the Pyrosapiens will take over the courtyard in front of the Hall of Waters for a fire spinning show, which will then be followed by the BBQ and Fly-In’s annual fireworks display.

There will be parents at the contest who want something fun for their children to do, and the barbecue committee has covered that base as well.  Set up in the parking lot to the north of Paradise Playhouse on Spring Street, there will be a variety of inflatable games for children to expend their energy on.  Wristbands will be available for $5 each.

Entry to the BBQ contest is $5 for each adult; children ages 12 and under are free and need to be accompanied with an adult.  The barbecue committee has set their sights on making this year another great event, bigger and better than last year’s and has made sure to include something for everyone.  The fun doesn’t stop on Friday, though; early Saturday morning at 7 a.m. the Excelsior Springs Airport will open up with a pancake breakfast with all of the fixings.  Lunch at the airport will be a barbecue lunch provided by Wabash BBQ.  According to fly-in coordinator Sarah Dickerson, both meals are available for a free will donation, which will be given to the fly-in sponsor, the Northwest Missouri Antique Airplane Association.

“Young Eagles flights for the kids will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday morning,” said Dickerson.  “Just a little early that day, at 8:30 a.m. the SkyTracker 41/Chopper 5 News helicopter will likely be arriving and will be at the fly-in for around four hours.”

Among the many other activities planned at the airport that day Dickerson said the Excelsior Springs Parks and Recreation Foundation will have an inflatable obstacle course set up for children, which will cost either $1 per turn or $5 for an all day pass.  All proceeds from the inflatable games will benefit the foundation, which will be set up from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

“With 81 degrees and light winds forecast as of now, we anticipate a lot of airplanes flying in coupled with the pancake breakfast, lunch from the Wabash, the inflatable games and Young Eagles rides, this is sure to be one awesome day” Dickerson remarked.

Last year close to 100 children received airplane rides from the Young Eagles, an opportunity of a lifetime.  This year Dickerson expects to surpass that number and increase the number of airplanes attending the fly-in.

By Jae Juarez • jae@leaderpress.com

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