PAOLA — Barbecue enthusiasts traveled from near and far to participate in the East Central Kansas State Barbecue Championship during the Roots Festival in Paola, but no one traveled farther than Wayne Dil and Jon James.
The teammates are from New Zealand, and they are in the Kansas City area preparing for the American Royal barbecue competition in September.
They wouldn’t even have known about the Roots Festival barbecue competition if it wasn’t for a chance encounter on Friday morning, Aug. 23.
The teammates were at The Kansas City BBQ Store in Olathe when they ran into Chad Lindsey and Chase Willard of Willard Wicks BBQ Pit, who were buying supplies to compete in the barbecue competition at Roots Festival.
Dil and James, who are part of New Zealand’s award-winning Team BBQ War, were giving Lindsey and Willard tips on what rubs to use for cooking different meats. Lindsey and Willard heard they were the top barbecue team in New Zealand and invited them to join their team for the competition at Roots Festival in Paola.
They made a quick call to organizer Jon Smail about having the two join their team, and that’s when they learned that a barbecue team canceled that morning, opening up a spot for Dil and James to enter the competition as Team BBQ War. They even got to use their tank-shaped smoker called Tankasaurus.
Smail said it was perfect timing.
“When I first heard they were from New Zealand, I was thinking, ‘what town in Kansas has a city named New Zealand?’ Then I realized they were a championship team out of Australia,” Smail said.
The New Zealand teammates weren’t the overall champions at the Roots Festival competition, but they did earn ninth place in the brisket category. They also made several new friends.
“Everyone in Paola has been friendly and good all around, giving us well wishes,” Dil said. “They all seem to like our accents. Well, at least the ladies do.”
The annual competition featured 70 teams, with most from a lot closer than New Zealand.
Regan and Kim House, who live in Baldwin City but are originally from Paola, were back at it after winning the Best of Miami County award last year. Operating as House’s Bar-B-Que, they finished fourth in the pork category.
Regan said brown sugar and chili powder are the two most important ingredients in his homemade sweet sauce.
David Achey, who owns the adult-care facility Country Club Estates in Paola, participated as a part of the team Royal Smoke. Achey said this is always his residents’ favorite time of year because he shares his barbecue with them.
She’za Smokin was one of the first-year teams at the competition. It was made up of Patrick Donahue of Spring Hill, Drew Symes of Louisburg, Brett Pener of Overland Park and Gabe Lopez of Blue Springs, Mo.
Many of the teams started smoking meat early Friday, Aug. 23, to enjoy with family, friends, teammates and competitors that evening and throughout the night. By Saturday afternoon, though, the teams were all business as they focused on perfecting their entries.
When all was said and done, Man Meat BBQ was crowned the overall champion of the competition. The team earned the most overall points by claiming top-10 finishes in the chicken, pork ribs and pork categories.
Shake n Bake was the reserve champions, and the Best of Miami County award went to Dan Hathaway of Louisburg for his team Old Style BBQ. The team also won first place in the chicken category.
The top 10 overall winners, along with the top five winners in each category, earned prize money. For complete results, see the accompanying box.