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BBQ and Fly-In on the River now only a week away

The smell of smoked meat, a chance to mingle with old friends and meet new ones, great live music and a play place for the kiddos—who could ask for more?  Just one week from today, on Friday, Aug. 16, the smell of smoked meat and the sounds of several local favorite bands will fill the downtown area during the 13th annual BBQ and Fly-In on the River.

After 11 months of preparation, the Excelsior Springs barbecue committee is putting together the last-minute details for the event, which is expected to draw thousands of guests and close to 70 barbecue teams.

“This event just grows larger every year,” said event coordinator Jim McCullough. “We definitely couldn’t pull it off without the help of everyone on the committee and all of our event sponsors.”  Committee members meet monthly all year long to keep the event running smoothly. Their attention to the barbecue teams’ needs is what keeps a majority of them coming back year after year.  Excelsior’s barbecue contest has become famous among the circuit of competitors for the hospitality given by its committeemen and women, which keeps bringing back teams time and time again.

This year’s contest boasts close to 10 local teams that have been participating since the event’s inception.  McCullough said event-goers could expect to see no fewer than 15 teams that are in the top 20 of the country’s best barbecuers.

“We have a tremendous amount of talent coming to compete this year,” he continued.  “We’ve been blessed with several Pit Masters teams that will be here, as well as several other teams that are contenders for team of the year.”

This year’s festivities are set to begin at 4 p.m. on Friday, which is when the gates will open downtown.  Entry is $5 per person with children under the age of 12 free as long as an adult accompanies them.  Of course, by the time the gates open most of the barbecue teams will have already arrived and will have begun preparation for each category they plan to compete in.  The five categories include pork butt, ribs, brisket, chicken, desert and pasta.

By the time the gates open and the public begins to arrive the inflatable games for children, which will be set up near Paradise Playhouse on Spring Street, will be set up, the beer garden will be open, the sounds of JD and the Chasers will be live on the Main Stage at the Hall of Waters and the smell of barbecue will be everywhere.

At 7 p.m., the parade will begin and will travel down Broadway Ave.

“This year’s parade will include the Shriners, several clowns, Wentworth Military Academy, the Air Force Reserves and more,” explained McCullough.  “Our parade grand marshal is Clyde Thompson and we are all really excited to have him.”

Thompson, a longtime employee of the American Italian Pasta Company, is one of the biggest reasons behind the BBQ and Fly-In committee’s decision to add a pasta category to the competition.

“Back when we first started the contest we really wanted to showcase what we have here in Excelsior.  By adding a pasta category it gives a lot of residents here the opportunity to cheer on some of our local teams.  Almost all of our teams really look forward to cooking the pasta; we’ve had people turn in entries with crawfish, steak and a lot of different variations in years past.  It’s probably safe to say that we are the only KCBS-sanctioned barbecue event with a pasta category,” said McCullough.

After the parade the local favorite band Salem Road will take the stage from 7 to 11 p.m. During this time, around dusk, a fireworks display can be seen from downtown.  Setting off the display this year are the Foggy Bottom Boys from South Kansas City. Soon after, when the sun is fully set, the Pyrosapiens will show their talents in front of the Hall of Waters.  The group spins fire and has become a huge hit for those who have seen them perform in the past.

After the Pyrosapiens are done and Salem Road has packed up their instruments, it will be quiet time for the barbecue teams as they prepare for the big day.  Saturday the teams will begin turning in their hard work in hopes of bragging rights and first place trophies in one of the five categories.  The barbecue event is open to any guests who want to watch and show their support of their favorite teams and awards will be presented beginning at 4 p.m.

But there will be more activity on Saturday at the Excelsior Springs Memorial Airport—the New 3EX—as fly-in action begins at 7 a.m. with a pancake breakfast loaded with all the fixings.

Fly-in organizer Sarah Dickerson said that the pancake breakfast and a barbecue lunch provided by Wabash BBQ will be available to everyone in attendance for a suggested donation to the Northwest Missouri Chapter of the Antique Airplane Association, which is sponsoring the fly-in.

“The Excelsior Springs Parks and Recreation Foundation is bringing two inflatables for children to play on, which there will be an admission for, but all the proceeds will go to parks and rec,” said Dickerson. “We will also be doing Young Eagles flights again this year for kids ages 8 to 18.  Last year we flew 100 kids.”

At last year’s fly-in the airport hosted 70 airplanes and this year Dickerson said their fingers are crossed as they hope to surpass that number with good weather and a lot of support from the community.  There are a few other events the airport committee has planned, including many static displays and other demonstrations that are yet to be announced.

For more information as it develops, visit

By Jae Juarez •

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