Greg and Grant Shepard were following in their father’s footsteps when their Pork ’N’ Mindy team won the Grand Championship last weekend at the 32nd annual Great Lenexa BBQ Battle.
Not only did the Olathe brothers duplicate the feat of their father, Curtis Shepard, their team did it with the same smoker he used when he won the Grand Championship in 1992 with the Campbell Point Burnt Ends team. “He bought it in 1989 and our team has been using it since we started competing in the Lenexa contest 13 years ago,” Greg Shepard said.
Winning the Grand Championship won the team members $2,500 in prize money and a banner proclaiming them Kansas State Champions.
He said the team makes its own rub and sauce, and the recipes used to change a little sometimes.
“You can bet we won’t be changing our recipe — or cooker — for next year’s contest. No changes at all,” Greg Shepard said. “We enter five barbecue contests a year and we’ve won some ribbons over the years but no big money…until Saturday.”
In addition to the $2,500 first-place money, the team also picked up $175 for finishing third in the pork category and $125 for fifth in ribs.
The Reserve Grand Championship and $1,250 went to Ted Elder of Kansas City and his Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Rub team. “This is by far the best we’ve done in our six years at the Lenexa contest,” Elder said.
“It’s great to win second, really exciting, because we weren’t expecting it. We did it by finishing third in brisket and doing well in ribs and with a little help from chicken and pork. It’s the first time we’ve been in the money here,” he said.
His team scored a total of 678.8572 points, close behind the 681.1432 points posted by the champion Pork N’ Mindy team.
“We’ll be back next year for sure,” Elder said. “We’ll stick with the same formula we used this year. When you hit on something that works stay with it and hope the judges like it again.”
Both Greg Shepard and Elder said the prize money will go for team expenses. “Maybe we’ll buy a new cooker,” Elder joked.
Frank Lichtenauer of Overland Park and his Smokers Purgatory team placed third overall and won $750 in prize money which, he said, was nice but not as nice as last year.
“We won the Grand Championship last year. We came back with the same recipe, sauce and meat this year and finished third. Didn’t change a thing,” he said.
“But it’s a crap shoot. You never know what the judges will like,” Lichtenauer said. “You just hope they do like it.”
“We’ll probably tweak our recipe some but we’ll be back next year with about the same thing. We like Lenexa. It’s one of our favorite contests. We usually enter 18 to 20 contests a year and we do all right,” he said.
This year’s Great Lenexa BBQ Battle drew 185 teams and 240 volunteer judges. A crowd of more than 20,000 attended the two-day event in Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park at 87th Street Parkway and Lackman Road, said Lindsay Hart, recreation superintendent with Lenexa Parks and Recreation.