The grills are heating up.
The competition is real.
Buck-a-Bone is back.
The annual fundraiser (also known as the Capital City Cook-Off) returns Friday afternoon to the Jefferson City Jaycees Fairgrounds.
Thirty-five teams signed up for the sassy competition. Each paid a $175 entry fee, so these guys are serious about their barbecue.
Doors open at 5 p.m. Tickets are $30 at the door. Tickets can also be purchased in advance, for $25 each, at: Scruggs Lumber, 1707 Christy Drive; Jefferson Bank Main Branch, 700A Southwest Blvd. ; Hy-Vee Grocery, 3721 W. Truman Blvd.; and Special Learning Center (SLC), 1115 Fairgrounds Road. Presales continue until the minute the doors open.
The cooking contest is held for a good cause, said Greg Bowman, one of the event organizers.
It benefits the SLC. Buck-a-Bone has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the nonprofit over the past 18 years.
The money supports the SLC mission, said executive director Stephanie Johnson. The center serves more than 800 children through therapy programs, special education classes, child care and other services.
“If we were to charge our families or our contract school districts what it actually costs to render services, the cost would be prohibitive,” Johnson said. “The vast majority of our families pay no fees.”
SLC understands, she said, that families with children with special needs have a lot of medical bills and wants to ease their burden.
“Our generous community helps children,” Johnson said. “Over the years, cooking has been a fundamental part of funding these programs.”
The cook-off used to be one of those real professional barbecue competitions. The winners would win big prizes. Then the organizers realized that it was more important to give the money to the SLC.
“It’s always inspiring – if you work in the non-profit sector of our community – it’s always inspiring to see the volunteers in our community,” she said. “They do it out of love. People really care here.”
Bowman and the other organizers are keeping their fingers crossed that the weather remains comfortable, he said.
Last year, due to the pandemic, organizers held the Buck-a-Bone as a drive-in barbecue rib dinner. People could buy sliced ribs and take them home. This year, the competition is back. There will be no take-out orders. Entrants will be able to select ribs from each of the competitors, Bowman said.
“We sold 960 slabs last year. This year we ordered 1,100 slabs,” he said. “We’re not going to run out of it.”
He pointed out that the price of admission not only includes unlimited ribs, but also two free drinks.
“The price really isn’t that bad,” Bowman said.
The event will feature live music from the Dave Baker Band.
“A group of friends and musicians got together for a puck tournament and a country band broke out,” the band’s Facebook page said. See the page at facebook.com/davebakerband.
Bowman said he would have a hard time choosing a favorite pit master for the competition.
“There are a lot of great cooks coming out,” he said. “It’s hard to (recommend a favorite) because everyone has different tastes.”
The organizers have the ribs in storage. They’ll hand them over to the pit masters at 8 a.m. Friday.