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American Royal barbecue contest to return to Kansas Speedway with new holiday date

Hundreds of elite teams on the barbecue competition circuit will be at the top of their game during Labor Day weekend.
Hundreds of elite teams on the barbecue competition circuit will be at the top of their game during Labor Day weekend.

The American Royal Barbecue contest — known as the “World Series of Barbecue” — is returning to the Kansas Speedway for another year.

And — instead of a fall date — barbecue enthusiasts will want to mark their calendars for Labor Day weekend (Aug. 31-Sept. 3) in 2017.

The iconic contest is now in its 38th year. After a number of consecutive years at the American Royal Complex in the West Bottoms, the cramped contest picked up stakes, landing at larger venues, including Arrowhead Stadium and the speedway track last year.

“We are extremely happy to be back at the Speedway. We had wonderful feedback last year from the teams,” says Lynn Parman, the American Royal’s president and CEO. Last year, the American Royal also announced it is pursuing a $160 million complex in Wyandotte County.

In 2016, the contest was held the last weekend in October, but organizers say turning the holiday weekend into a barbecue festival will attract more barbecue fanatics from across the country and around the world.

The event attracts more than 50,000 attendees and last year’s substantially larger 1.5 mile, 65-acre oval afforded additional space for contestants and spectators, as well expanded barbecue-centric activities, including a public festival that will include live music, barbecue and local food tastings, a carnival for kids, a barbecue-related vendors fair and a beer garden.

The date change is a plus because hundreds of elite teams on the barbecue competition circuit will be at the top of their game during Labor Day weekend.

Kansas Speedway president Pat Warren is eager to continue to hone the logistics required for such a massive event. “We had a great relationship with ... the leadership team”

The agreement with the Speedway is for one year. The American Royal maintains its relationship with the Kansas City Chiefs and Parman says the venue as well as dates may continue to change in coming years, based on the need for a large capacity crowd and scheduling around Kansas City’s professional sports teams.

“I thought it was an excellent venue, because once you get inside, everything is in one place,” says Carolyn Wells, executive director of the Kansas City Barbeque Society, of the Speedway. The society sanctions the contest and supplies volunteers and judges to run it.

As for the change in time of year, Wells notes that the contest has weathered a series of location (the first contest was held at Crown Center) and calendar changes (usually sometime in October or November) yet continues to grow.

“We’ll continue to support them wherever they go,” Wells says of the American Royal.

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