All’s ‘fair’ with smoke and fire

Register Reporter

Register/Richard Luken
Scot Kee is one of 23 competitors who will prepare entries for the Allen County Fair’s Riverside BBQ Classic today at Riverside Park. At inset is Terry Johnson, a reserve Allen County Deputy, setting up a dunk tank for fair week. A full slate of activities, including a car show and free concert will greet fairgoers today.

Today promises to be one of the tastiest in Allen County Fair history.
As the 116th edition of the fair kicks off at Riverside Park, culinary artists from as far away as South Dakota and Florida are here for the inaugural Riverside BBQ Classic.
Unlike past fair barbecue cookoffs, today’s event is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, which means a larger number of competitors.
The 2008 fair, organizers noted, featured eight competitors, most of which hailed from southeast Kansas. Today’s has 23 registered, “and if it goes as well as it looks like it will, that number will be much larger next year,” said Scot Kee of Owasso, Okla.
Kee, whose outfit is called “Little Pig Town,” was instrumental in spreading word about the fair’s cookoff, said Fair Board member Katy Donovan.
“He really helped let others know about our competition,” Donovan said.
Kee was a bit more modest. He, like other KCBS members, heard about the Allen County cookoff via the society’s Web site,
“We know the county’s Web site was up and going, but for whatever reason, the link didn’t work correctly,” Kee said.
Kee contacted Donovan, then helped contact other KCBS members through other Web sites and Internet message boards.
The effort was vital because at least 15 entries were required for the cookoff to be sanctioned by KCBS. That number rises to 25 in subsequent years.
“But once others hear about how this went, they’ll have no trouble getting more people to come,” Kee said. “They have a very nice setup here. Everything looks wonderful.”

PARTICIPATING IN weekly cookoffs is a family affair for Kee, his wife Rochelle and their daughter Bailey. They’ll load up their recreational vehicle, which tows a customized offset smoker that Kee acquired earlier this year.
“I really like the flavor of having the offset heat,” he said. “It really allows the meat to absorb the smoke.”
He’ll prepare entries in all four meat categories: chicken, ribs, pork and brisket. Doing so requires an early start.
Kee fired up his smoker last night at about 11 and tossed the meat in the cooker shortly after midnight. There it will stay until it’s ready to be judged, 12 hours or longer in most cases.
“But I won’t let anything be judged until she likes it,” Kee said, motioning in his wife’s direction.
“And I’m pretty picky,” Rochelle Kee added with a laugh.
The weekly competitions throughout the midwest have led to several lasting friendships for the Kees, who will reconnect with a number of fellow competitors today.
“That’s the best part, getting to know everybody,” he said.
The Allen County Fair is part of a busy summer for the Kees, who will be on the road for weekly competitions nine times in a 10-week stretch. They’ll be in Olathe next week.
Little Pig Town has earned a handful of second- and third-place ribbons this year. “But I’m still trying to get my first grand championship,” Kee said.
The quality of the competition can make it difficult to bring home big trophies, he acknowledged.
“Any one of thse guys can win it any week,” he said.

A FULL day of activities will greet fairgoers today at Riverside Park.
Dr. Cary Minor will demonstrate control-line combat model airplane flying today at 9 and 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Meanwhile, a car show will be near the barbecue cookoff area. Several children’s games and activities run throughout the afternoon.
Farm equipment safety demonstrations start at 6 p.m., followed by tonight’s signature event, a free concert by the Outlaw Junkies.
Sunday’s activities include a tractor pull at noon, a gospel concert by 3 Rusty Nails at 7:30 p.m. and a draft horse pull at 8 o’clock.
A schedule of events is on page 2.