The Evolution of Excelsior Springs’ BBQ & Fly-In on the River

The BBQ & Fly-In on the River returned for In its 23rd year to downtown Excelsior Springs this weekend. Fifty-three teams went head to head to win trophies and bragging rights in the two-day competition. Although it’s presented as a “festival”, the event has changed over time, which can be a bit confusing to those unfamiliar with the history of the event. Some citizens took to social media to criticize the event making statements such as “They need to go back to the drawing board on this one” and “We were disappointed we couldn’t try any BBQ. $5 each for nothing.” 

When the BBQ & Fly-in on the River first began there were more public events taking place around the competition part of the festival. The Excelsior Springs Airport also held a “Fly-In’ airshow with planes landing and taking off for spectators to watch as they enjoyed breakfast from the hangars. In addition to these events, there was usually some sort of military aircraft that would come in, and some years there were military parades. Combined with the live music and fireworks, all of this made for a really big festival! 

Over time, many of the “festival” elements have gone away, but the competition portion still remains. While the Fly-In at the airport and annual breakfast no longer are held, there was a Blackhawk Helicopter that landed on Piburn Field, giving citizens the opportunity to climb around inside and check it out.

The BBQ Committee in recent years has been turned over to the Downtown Excelsior Partnership (DEP), which has introduced new events, like a “Whiskey Walk,” in conjunction with the competition. The Home Brews competition, in its third year, has also proven to be very popular and brings additional people to the community. These attendees are all spending their money locally while they’re here, which is an added benefit to the community. Profits from the BBQ & Fly-in go back to DEP to be invested back into the improvements that we are seeing to the downtown. 

In response to the complaints, Shawna Mull, a loyal volunteer and supporter of the festival had this to say: “You all should know that the entry fee for this contest isn’t cheap. The teams come from all over the country to compete. Local teams come and host their families and friends at their booths with BBQ and beverages.

We, the City, are the hosts of the event and they are our guests. They are usually always gracious guests.

The event organizers have tried very hard to make this event fun for everyone. The band was great at the Hall of Waters circle drive! The helicopter was extra cool this year too.

It really sucks that people just want to complain about things no one can change.

We have one of the best organized BBQ competitions I have ever been to. The teams return every year to fill all of the spaces available. There is a kids cook also. Maybe this could be expanded to offer more kids the opportunity to join in. Maybe teams could sponsor a local kid to help compete?

The whiskey walk was new this year to help get folks in the businesses. It was a different ticket but covered you BBQ entry too. I thought it was a great idea!

Saturday the Home Brew competition was a big hit! Home beer brewers from all over KC and the surrounding areas shared their craft hoping to take home a winning trophy. You, the public, could buy a ticket to judge and taste almost 50 beers.

All in all the weekend has more to offer than you think.

If it’s not for you I get it. Trashing the event publicly because you don’t like the way it is run or because of County regulations that cannot be changed just hurts the people that volunteer and work tirelessly to make it a great event for our guests. Those people are likely your neighbors and friends.

Try to think outside yourselves sometimes. Try to just be kind instead of hurtful.

Thank you to the organizers and volunteers! It was a great BBQ competition! You rock!”

We hope that next year the public will order some Wabash BBQ on Friday night and pay the $5 to see the band and watch the fireworks. You can do so knowing that your dollars are kept local and will collectively be used to make continued improvements! 

Yes! Come have fun all weekend long! There’s a $5 entry Friday and free entry on Saturday. Whiskey Walk and Home Brew Tastings tickets are available for purchase.

In short, no. Did you really think you could get all you could eat bbq for your $5 entry? C’mon now. Due to Health Department Standards, this is not an option. There was a People’s Choice category that you can participate in on Friday night.

It’s a fundraiser for our community. Just think of it like a small cover charge. You get to walk around and talk to some of the top competition BBQ teams in the country, drink cold beer, listen to great live music and enjoy $10,000 worth of fireworks. See, $5 isn’t so bad after all, is it?

In downtown parking will be limited. Find space and walk to one of the six entrances into the event! 

Ummm…no! No outside alcohol will be permitted on the festival grounds by the public. We will have a beer garden that you can utilize. You can also buy tickets to the Whiskey Walk or buy beverages from your favorite local bars and restaurants. 

The Whiskey Walk is a new DEP event! Downtown businesses and Missouri based distilleries will be serving pours of whiskies and bourbons! In addition to the booze, you also get samples of bacon and BBQ!

This will be the 3rd year of the Home Brew Contest! This is an opportunity to enjoy premium home brewed beer. There are 3 ticket options for Home Brew - one even includes a BBQ lunch provided by G.C. BBQ!

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