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Kansas City Barbeque Society celebrates 30th anniversary

Carolyn Wells, Kansas City Barbeque Society’s executive director and co-founder, received a special crystal Lifetime Achievement Award at the 30th anniversary awards banquet.
Carolyn Wells, Kansas City Barbeque Society’s executive director and co-founder, received a special crystal Lifetime Achievement Award at the 30th anniversary awards banquet. Special to The Star

Just come and cook and enjoy it. Don’t put yourself under pressure by expecting to win ribbons. Just come out and compete and have fun with the people that are around you, the cookers that are around you. There’s some of the best people in the world out here. It’s fun. — Marty Edwards, Swine Flew

Just remember, when it stops being fun, you don’t cook. As long as you enjoy the cooking, you enjoy the people you work with, the people next to you and across from you. As long as you enjoy those, go for it. — Larry Marks, 3 Little Pigs

What does an organization that has grown from three founders to more than 21,000 members worldwide in a mere three decades do to celebrate?

Gather several hundred members for education/motivation sessions and throw a big Friday night dance party followed by a Saturday night awards banquet in the home city.

Nearly 400 active members of the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) gathered recently at the Intercontinental Hotel on the County Club Plaza for a 30th anniversary annual meeting.

The meeting opened with a keynote speaker, Famous Dave Anderson. Anderson shared his story of how he turned his backyard barbecue grill into a $500 million barbecue empire. Anderson drew enthusiastic applause for his presentation.

Although the Kansas City Barbeque Society has grown from a very small to a very large organization, fun has always been a core value of the organization. The quotes I recorded from Larry Marks and the late Marty Edwards 20 years ago make the point.

In addition to worldwide growth in membership and corporate sponsorships, KCBS-sanctioned contests have grown from less than a dozen per year to almost 500 worldwide.

Cash prizes at sanctioned contests now range from several hundred dollars to $100,000 or more. Amateur judges have transitioned to more than 35,000 trained, certified barbecue judges worldwide. As was noted at the awards banquet, the barbecue boom momentum is set for more phenomenal growth over the next decade.

This summer KCBS will move from its cramped headquarters on Hickman Mills Drive to newly renovated digs at 2519 Madison Ave. near the Boulevard Brewing Co. Offices and meeting space will occupy the first floor. A barbecue museum and archives are planned for a portion of the basement. The 15,000-square-foot top floor will be leased to a suitable tenant.

Has the familiar KCBS slogan, “Barbeque … it’s not just for breakfast anymore” changed to “Barbeque, it’s not just for fun anymore”?

My guess is that a membership poll posing that question would yield a resounding, “No!” Money, fame and glitz aside, KCBS, like Ben and Jerry, gets it right: “If it isn’t fun, why do it?”

Ardie Davis founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub & Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on food shows and writes for barbecue-related publications. His most recent releases are America’s Best BBQ (Revised Edition), with chef Paul Kirk, and Barbecue Lover’s Kansas City Style .

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