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World Series Of Barbecue Fires Up Smokers At Arrowhead Stadium For First Time

Cody Newill
Russell Muehlberger preps some pork for judging at the World Series of Barbecue. The American Royal moved the competition to the Truman Sports Complex due to the size of the competition.

For 35 years, the American Royal's World Series of Barbecue called Kansas City's West Bottoms home. But this year, the popular competition made its debut at Arrowhead Stadium.

The event drew a record 618 barbecue teams from across the country to the parking lots around the football stadium. The American Royal insisted for years that the city raze Kemper Arena to help keep the expanding competition in the West Bottoms. 

Credit Cody Newill / KCUR
MIZ-BBQ's smoker was re-purposed from an old water tank. Some smokers can cost upwards of $10,000.

But, after little movement from the Kansas City council on the issue, the Royal decided it was time to move on to a bigger facility.

Russell Muehlberger of Boys in Blue Barbecue has been competing in the World Series of Barbecue for nearly 30 years and has three trophies to show for it. He says the move to Truman hasn't changed his feelings towards the event.

"You know, the main point is to come out here and have fun," Muehlberger said. "I'm hoping we win a ribbon so I can do a happy dance. This is a bigger location, lots more parking, but it's pretty much the same otherwise."

But others felt that the competition had some first-year growing pains from the move. Jeff Reinhard of MIZ-BBQ said that while the event still was as fun as ever, getting in and out of the Truman Sports Complex was harder than the West Bottoms.

"They had it down to a science [in the West Bottoms], everything just worked like clockwork," Reinhard said. "We've got all this space but you've only got two entrances here."

Both teams participated in the open competition where they submitted plates of ribs, pork, chicken and sausage for judging. The World Series of Barbecue also holds an invitational competition for select teams.

Cody Newill is a general assignment reporter for KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @CodyNewill or you can send him an email at cody@kcur.org. 

Cody Newill is part of KCUR's audience development team. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill or email him at cody@kcur.org.
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