MASON CITY | Teams and fans at the 2015 Up in Smoke BBQ Bash refused to let nasty storms get in the way of good barbecue.
Two rounds of storms dumped 4.13 inches of rain in Mason City early Friday, causing the Winnebago River and Willow Creek to rise so rapidly that some teams were forced to evacuate low-lying areas of East Park.
But by noon the skies were blue, the ground was dry and the park was quickly filling up.
Sponsored by the Globe Gazette, the Bash runs Friday and Saturday in the park. Fifty-five teams from North Iowa and across the country signed up to compete in the Bash's Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned competition on Saturday.
Rich Davis, of The Q Crew, found his rig safe on high ground but without power Friday morning. As soon as that was fixed he got to work seasoning 56 racks of ribs to sell at his vending stand.
Several teams sell barbecue and other foods at vending stands during the two-day event. There is also a beer garden and free live music during the Bash.
Fans of the Bash like to eat. The Q Crew, of Waldorf, Minnesota, sells more food at the Bash than anywhere else it goes, Davis said.
The team typically goes through 300 pounds of brisket during the two-day event.
"For some reason they like the brisket," he said.
Elizabeth Yusko of Cedar Falls made sure to get a brisket sandwich when she and friend Katelind Lenz of Osage stopped by the Bash Friday afternoon.
"I get my brisket fix up here," Yusko said.
The self-described food lovers said they have been coming to the event for the past few years. It's become tradition to meet up for a day of good food in East Park, they said.
"We're food fanatics, I guess," Lenz said with a laugh. "We'll try anything."
The key to a successful Bash is trying different foods, being adventurous.
"Don't be afraid of the sauces," Lenz said. "Even if you get an extra container and just dip it."
Davis, of The Q Crew, knew the weather wouldn't scare barbecue fans away.
"We always get big crowds down here," said Davis, loading ribs into the smoker. "We've vended through rain and through heat and it doesn't seem to keep them away."
MASON CITY | Torrential rain caused flash flooding across North Iowa Friday morning, but the weather quickly cleared and a busy weekend of events continued for the most part as planned.
Contestants and vendors setting up in East Park for the Up in Smoke Barbecue Bash were asked to move to higher areas of the park.
County and local officials ordered the temporary evacuation as a precaution, said Cerro Gordo County Emergency Services Coordinator Steve O'Neill.
"It was raining hard and we didn't want anyone to get trapped," he said.
“East Park was built on a flood plain as a way of absorbing heavy rain, and today it did its job," O’Neill said.
Ben Nelson, 14, was in the park with his father, Scott’s, Pig Skin Barbecue team when they were asked to evacuate.
“There was hoards of people trying to get over here,” Ben said of the higher east side of the park.
“We lived through it and we got set up for a second time,” Scott Nelson said.
The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for Cerro Gordo County Friday morning following thunderstorms that dumped as much as 3 inches of rain in a little over an hour.
No injuries were reported, but there were reports of stranded motorists in ditches between Mason City and Clear Lake.
In Clear Lake, 10th Avenue North was closed by law enforcement due to at least 6 inches of water on the road, and other streets were nearly impassable until water receded.
The bike trail along Highway 106 was partially submerged near Eisenhower Avenue and the Clear Lake trailhead was under several feet of water.
Officials anticipated flooding along small creeks and streams, in particular, from runoff.
MASON CITY | The majestic Up in Smoke BBQ Bash SPAM Contest trophy is going back to Minnesota.
Hogline BBQ of Owatonna won the judges over with a SPAM hamburger filled with cheese, a creation known in Minnesota as a Juicy Lucy, and Grain Belt beer-battered onion rings.
"We're from Owatonna, Minnesota — we're from SPAM Country,"said Hogline team member Dustin Reese. "We put three practices on this to get this thing just right to make sure it was exactly what we wanted (and) representative of SPAM."
Bubba Q's of Ottumwa was second with SPAM tacos and jalapeno poppers. Dig In Cookers of Ankeny was third with SPAM egg rolls.
The competition was tough. The winning margins were slim.
"You've gotta put something good out and just hope that the judges like it because everybody's cooking some good stuff," said Hogline team member Jon Hanson.
Judge Resha Hovde, a SPAM brand ambassador at Hormel Foods, said the teams put out quality dishes.
"A lot of really nice BBQ notes, the grilling notes coming through," she said. "Fantastic job by all of the teams here tonight."
Even though Hogline wasn't confident in a victory, the three men knew before the contest that their Juicy Lucy was the real deal.
"We tried it Wednesday night and the second time we were like, yep, this is right," Jeff Hanson said.
The SPAM contest was one of two specialty competitions held Friday. Several teams also made chili for Bash-goers to taste and vote on.
The chili contest winner will be announced on Saturday.
CHARLES CITY | A Floyd man was sentenced to up to 50 years in prison Friday for sexually abusing two 8-year-old children in Floyd County.
John W. Lusk, 74, was found guilty in May on two counts of second-degree sexual abuse by a Floyd County jury.
Second-degree sexual abuse is a Class B felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison on each count.
Judge DeDra Schroeder gave Lusk the maximum sentence Friday on each count, with the sentences are to be served consecutively.
She also denied a motion filed by Lusk's attorney, Susan Flander, requesting for a new trial and in arrest of judgment, challenging the jury's decision.
Assistant Floyd County Attorney Denise Patters said the minimum amount of time Lusk must serve before being eligible for parole is 17.5 years on each count.
She said a second-degree sexual abuse conviction calls for mandatory lifetime supervision upon release from prison and lifetime registration with the Iowa Sex Offender Registry.
Lusk was accused of sexually abusing two 8-year-old children, a boy and a girl, in 2010 and 2014 at his home and at another location in Charles City.
Trial is pending for Lusk on three more charges of second-degree sexual abuse in Woodbury County.