Rhythm & BBQ brings 40 competitors, live music to Goold Park

Brandon Santini performs at the Rhythm and BBQ Festival in Morris on Saturday.

40 BBQ competitors will spend Saturday morning preparing for the Rhythm & BBQ Festival that runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, where judges will decide the winner in this Kansas City BBQ Society-sponsored event.

Most competitors are local, but some come from as far away as Michigan and Minnesota and the locals travel all over to participate in other competitions.

“The thing about the guys from the Midwest is they compete all over,” said organizer Stan Knudson. “We had a gentleman last year from Gurnee who competed in a Kansas City Barbecue event in Fairbanks, Alaska, so they’re all pretty well-traveled.”

The competition has grown since last year, when it only had 22 competitors.

“The competitors talk a lot about this event and Morris and I think they really appreciate it,” Knudson said. “They love our setting in the park, being on grass. I’ve competed in these in the past and you’re usually in a parking lot on your feet all day, and it’s difficult because you’re on blacktop or concrete.”

Goold Park makes for a shady area and Knudson said competitors love the atmosphere around it. For some competitions, competitors feel like they’re off in the corner and separate for everything else. They’re stationed right in the middle of the Rhythm & BBQ Festival.

“I always say talk to the competitors,” Knudson said. “They love to talk about this stuff. If you’re a seasons BBQ person or brand new to it, they love to share with people and it’s really nice to get little tips and tricks. One time might bring in a $30,000 BBQ rig and they’re competing against a guy that has a $100 barrel smoker.”

Knudson said it’s important to note that competitors are cooking for the judges, not the festival attendees. Anyone hungry for BBQ won’t have to look far, though. The festival has six food trucks selling BBQ, along with a popcorn truck and a dessert truck.

BBQ isn’t all the festival boasts, either: Returning this year is the live music, with Jake Karlik & and the Idols, Kenny P and Liam Tipple all performing.

Knudson said the the “best dish” competition from last year will return this year, which is a competition where every competitor cooks with a different ingredient or secret ingredient. The “best dish” competition this year is a beer-and-brats dish. The bratwurst is donated by Jewel-Osco and the beer will be donated from Keg Grove Brewing Company.

This year’s beneficiary is Illinois Valley Industries, which has been assisting adults with intellectual, development, sensory, physical and emotional barriers to define who they are, what they want to do and how they direct their lives through vocational, educational, social and residential services for over 50 years.

Michael Urbanec

Michael Urbanec

Michael Urbanec covers Grundy County and the City of Morris, Coal City, Minooka, and more for the Morris Herald-News