OVS at The American Royal

The American Royal. The World Series of BBQ. Kansas City, Missouri.

Old Virginia Smoke went there in our second year. How awesome.

By qualification from our win in Fort Washington, MD, we got to drive halfway across the country to compete with the world’s best BBQ teams in the American Royal Invitational and the American Royal Open.

It was quite the undertaking, to say the least. Lucas and his friend Keith set out on Friday night the week before for sort of a “boys” trip across America. We stopped in Big 12 country to see family and friends in Morgantown, WV. We then put in a full day down I-70 and ended up in SEC Country in Columbia, Missouri. (See…that doesn’t make much sense…)

Hit KC on Sunday and enjoyed watching football and trying out some bars in the area. On Monday, we were fortunate enough to have great seats at Arrowhead Stadium for the Chiefs thumping of the Patriots. A few days of work, and every food recommendation from Diva Q…and it was time to get down to business.

There are two sides to the parking lot at the American Royal. Lot A, and Lot B. We were on what’s known as “The Dark Side.” This area is populated by corporate parties, keggers, ice luges and generally tomfoolery. And OVS was right in the middle of it.


We were pretty sheltered from the madness, and spent a lot of time with the other invitational teams over on the other side. A fabulous steak dinner on Thursday night from our friends at Redneck Scientific (that was a perfect 180 steak, Sean) followed up by some guitar and guitjo playing from Luke, Leigh Anne and Sean resulted in one of the best Thursdays we have ever had at a BBQ competition.

Friday was game time. Neil Pappalardo, who came all the way to KC to help us out, landed around 10. We got the perimeter set up, purchased some firewood for the WSM fire pit, and prepped everything. Beautiful fireworks and thumpin bass set the tone for the evening. At about 3 a.m., all finally went quiet on the Western front.


We had a really good cook. Of course there were 10 things that I wish I had done different, but still…thought it went really well. Got everything turned in on time, and then sat down for some delicious beer with Jay Reeder at 420 Q, and the good folks at Aporkalypse Now. The girls and Neil got all of the sides and the dessert put together and turned in. All was over but the cryin’, part 1.

The awards were like nothing we had ever been to. Everyone in the BBQ universe was there. We had arranged to watch awards with our good friends from back east, Rock and Dreama from Rock’s Money Pit.

Awards came and went, and MABA rose up STRONG. (Again, I apologize if I miss anyone. It isn’t intentional.)

Big congrats to Tommy with Checkered Pig for 13th chicken, to Superman Jerry for 10th place Ribs, to our friends Mike and Barb with Chix, Swine and Bovine for 4th Ribs and 6th place pork, Beerbeque for 4th place pork. A special shout to Rock’s Money Pit, with a PERFECT PERFECT 180 (all 9’s) in brisket!

A very huge congrats to Chix, Swine and Bovine for a 10th overall finish. And a tremendous congratulations to our friend Bill Gillespie and his team Smokin Hoggz BBQ for their GC in the Invitational. We met Bill earlier in the year when we ventured up to Rochester, NY. It was such fantastic spectacle to see a friend win.

OVS finished highest in ribs with a 28th place finish, and a 69th place finish in brisket. I won’t lie. Despite knowing that the odds were low against such stiff competition, I still thought we’d get a call. Definitely thought the brisket was good enough. Got a nice little pep talk from Superman and, after another fantastic meal prepared by Roxanne with Redneck Scientific, we went back to the trailer and got after it.

A lot of time was spent thinking about the previous day’s cook. We talked about some little tweaks that we could make. We were being challenged. We had never cooked a back to back competition before. Everyone was beat. But we had to press on.

Much quieter the second night on the dark side. More fireworks, and another Royals victory. And another very solid cook. We did it, and that was a sense of accomplishment on its own. We went to the Open awards with our heads held high, ready to root for our friends. As customary, we went to the other side of the arena, which we do for every awards presentation that we’ve been to twice. And then, all of a sudden, we’re sitting next to Tuffy Stone, Jamie Geer, and Rod Gray. No big deal!

Another fantastic finish for MABA teams. Mike and Barb followed up their 10th place in the Invitational with a 10th place in the Open. That’s a tremendous accomplishment. And a huge congrats to Tuffy Stone from Cool Smoke on their GC. That gives them the Royal Invitational last year, the Jack, and this year’s Open. That’s unprecedented.

And lo and behold, Old Virginia Smoke got called up for 2nd place beans! We heard our name there. We got the boots dirty. And that alone was worth the trip.


We followed up the awards with going to the final recommendation from DivaQ, Stroud’s fried chicken. I cannot wait to go back to Kansas City, just to have that.

There are too many people to thank really. Thank you to my family and friends. Thank you to our Kickstarter supporters who helped us with the trailer. Thank you to Neil Pappalardo for coming out and helping. Thank you to Chix Swine and Bovine, Blue Bloods, Checkered Pig for the hospitality. Thanks to Rob at Q39 for the ride home. Thanks to Redneck Scientific for making us a part of their family for a few days. We hope to return the favor soon. Thank you to the people who called with encouragement. Thank you to DivaQ for the recommendations for food, and for the encouragement as well.

Thank you to our sponsors, first and foremost, Dizzy Pig and Chris Cappell. None of this would be possible without you guys. Thank you so much to BBQ Guru and Hav’n a BBQ for all of your support. And thank you to the Wine’ing Butcher for some great meat products.

But most of all, thank you to my best friend Leigh Anne, and my wife Kim. They are the rocks. They are the reason that we’re successful. And I couldn’t do it without them.