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Rockwell team takes top prize at Up in Smoke BBQ Bash

MASON CITY | Pig Skin BBQ of Rockwell has competed for nine years in the Up in Smoke BBQ Bash, picking up three Reserve Champion trophies as well as other prizes.

However, Saturday was the first time the husband-and-wife team of Scott and Katy Nelson won it all at the Mason City event. 

Photos: Up In Smoke BBQ Bash

Scott said he was "overwhelmed with joy" that Pig Skin BBQ won the Grand Champion trophy.

Up in Smoke is only the second event the Nelsons have competed in this year as they recently started their own catering business, also named Pig Skin BBQ.

But no matter how busy they are, "We will always come to Mason City," Scott said.

Up in Smoke is not only close to home, but "the camaraderie is always amazing," he said. 

The setting in East Park "is like nothing else," Scott said. "It's a fun contest."

The organizers of the event do a great job, he added.

In addition to cooking for the contest on Saturday, Pig Skin BBQ — wearing the catering hat — served 300 people at the Thrivent Financial Party at Up In Smoke. 

Katy wasn't able to stay for the awards ceremony because she was making dough for pizza in preparations for an Up In Smoke after-party for 70 people. Scott texted her throughout the awards ceremony.

"It's been a busy day," he said.

This year's Reserve Champion was Iowa Smokey D's BBQ of Des Moines. Whitewater BBQ of Dover, Minnesota, placed third overall and won the Howard Query Newbie trophy as the highest-ranking first-time team in the contest. 

"it's been a great weekend," said Ruth Miller, Bash coordinator and Globe Gazette marketing manager. "I am so proud and thrilled to have 50 teams here, making us again the largest (barbecue) contest in Iowa."

The cooks donated lots of leftover food to Community Kitchen of North Iowa, according to Miller.

"Those who participate in barbecue contests are fabulous, fabulous people," she said. 

Arian Schuessler / Arian Schuessler The Globe Gazette 

The 14th Annual Up In Smoke BBQ Bash

RAGBRAI returns to North Iowa during 45th annual event

CLEAR LAKE | Get ready, North Iowa, because here they come.

Bicycles — thousands of them — that is.

The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa will make stops in Algona, Clear Lake and Charles City as well as plenty others along the way this week as it makes its way from the Missouri River to the Mississippi.

The 45th annual bike ride route, which is dubbed by its sponsor the Des Moines Register as “the oldest, largest and longest bicycle touring event in the world,” begins Sunday in Orange City and ends Saturday, July 29, in Lansing.

It will have overnight stops in Spencer on Sunday, Algona on Monday, Clear Lake on Tuesday, Charles City on Wednesday, Cresco on Thursday and Waukon on Friday before riding into Lansing.

After their overnight stop in Algona, cyclists will travel through Wesley, Hutchins, Britt, Garner and Ventura on their way to Clear Lake on Tuesday.

There will be more than 12 hours of free music when RAGBRAI overnights in Clear Lake. The music is set to begin at 11 a.m. and continue throughout the day on three stages thanks to donations from area businesses, organizations, individuals and foundations.

Joining the previously announced “Main Stage” artists are Stan The Pan Man, The Jumbies, The Surf Zombies, The Flaming Camaros and Hitchville. Their performances will go through 6 p.m. on the Beach Stage near City Beach.

A late night show featuring The Brazilian 2wins is set to close out the Hanson Foundation Main Stage entertainment, and a third intimate Main Avenue Stage will feature acoustic artists Pan Dimensions and Ruthless Ruth.

“One Love, One Lake” is the theme for the entertainment options available that day. Clear Lake’s band shell will serve as the main stage, hosting music from 6:45 to 11 p.m. with performances by The Wailers, Cowboy Mouth and Irie Sol.

After their overnight stop in Clear Lake, the cyclists will ride through Thornton, Swaledale, Rockwell, Cartersville and Rockford on their way to their overnight stop in Charles City on Wednesday.

Each year 10,000 people are awarded tickets in a lottery to be official participants in the event. Thousands of others tag along unofficially for all, or parts, of the ride to help create one of the largest moving parties of its kind.

RAGBRAI presents a unique opportunity for the towns along the route to market themselves to people who come here from all over the country and around the world.

Church groups, civic organizations, businesses and others also use the opportunity to make money by selling food, beverages and other services to the riders and support people.

Communities that host the group for overnight stays usually plan extensive events to welcome the throng, and the Register says that some estimates are that up to $3 million can be injected into a community by an overnight RAGBRAI stop.

The route this summer is being called the third-easiest in the event’s 45-year history. It is the third-shortest at a total of 411 miles, and the third flattest at a total climb of 13,073 feet.

The ride from Spencer to Algona on Monday is the longest day at 73.8 miles. The distance from Algona to Clear Lake is 51.4 miles. Clear Lake to Charles City is 57.5 miles. The shortest distance is on the last day, 44.8 miles from Waukon to Lansing as riders climb more than 3,200 feet through the hills before dropping back to the Mississippi River.

Ashley Miller / File photo 

RAGBRAI riders make their way out the east side of Rockford on their way to the overnight stay in Charles City in 2010.

Murphy: First calls made for Dix to resign as Iowa Senate GOP leader

A $2.2 million judgement likely will cause some collateral damage.

Some think that should include Bill Dix’s job as the Republican leader in the Iowa Senate.

A Polk County jury this past week awarded $2.2 million to Kirsten Anderson, a former staff worker for Senate Republicans in the Iowa Legislature. The award was the result of Anderson’s lawsuit in which she alleged her 2013 dismissal was retaliation for her complaints of sexual harassment.

The state — more specifically, Senate Republican staff — claimed Anderson was fired for poor work performance.

The jury ruled in favor of Anderson, and the $2.2 million award will be forked out by Iowa taxpayers at a time when the state budget is already seriously pinched.

When a lawsuit results in seven-figure monetary damages, often the impact is felt beyond the checkbook.

Already two public calls have been made for Dix to resign, including one from a Republican senator.

Sen. Rick Bertrand, a Republican from Sioux City, issued a statement Wednesday in which he called for Dix to resign.

“Sen. Dix has a pattern of retaliation, we all know that, and unfortunately power has that effect on some people," Bertrand wrote. "This jury did not believe that Ms. Anderson was justly fired, and ultimately her dismissal was Bill Dix’s decision, and that lack of judgement has consequences."

Dix recently removed Bertrand as a chairman of the Senate’s transportation budget committee.

Des Moines Register columnist Kathie Obradovich reached the same conclusion: Dix should resign.

“By failing to provide a professional work environment and even minimally competent management, Senate Republicans failed in their duty to protect taxpayers. Now every Iowan has to pay the penalty with their tax dollars,” Obradovich wrote this week. “Every one of the people with responsibility in this case, from Dix on down, should resign.”

Dix did not respond to Bertrand’s call for his resignation, according to a Senate Republican spokesman.

But Dix did defend himself and his staff in response to the jury’s decision. He maintained the defense that Anderson was fired “only for her poor work product and absolutely no other reason.”

“During my leadership of the Senate Republican Caucus, harassment and inappropriate behavior was addressed immediately and effectively and it will continue to be addressed in that manner in the future,” Dix said in a statement. “The Senate Republican Caucus is now a safe environment and there is no tolerance for any and all types of harassment.”

Anderson testified that she first began complaining of sexual harassment in 2010, according to the Des Moines Register, and she was fired in 2013.

Dix was voted Senate Republicans’ leader in 2012.

The jury's ruling and calls for his resignation come at an otherwise heady time for Dix. In the 2016 elections he helped Senate Republicans gain the majority — and, as a result, control of the legislative agenda — in the Iowa Senate. Then, in 2017, he led Senate Republicans as they joined with House Republicans and Gov. Terry Branstad to pass myriad pieces of conservative legislation long sought by GOP lawmakers and voters.


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker this week endorsed Kim Reynolds in Iowa’s 2018 gubernatorial election.

Reynolds will be the successor incumbent in the race — she ascended from lieutenant governor after former Gov. Terry Branstad resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China. But Reynolds faces a Republican primary challenge from Cedar Rapids mayor Ron Corbett.

GOP leaders have been lining up behind Reynolds — earlier this month Iowa’s Republican U.S. senators, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, announced their support for Reynolds.

“Gov. Reynolds is a strong leader whose bold vision promises a bright future for the people of Iowa,” Walker said in a statement issued by the Reynolds campaign. “She works tirelessly for Iowa’s hard-working families, and I’m proud to endorse her and the commonsense reforms she’s advancing in her state.”

Walker’s support means more than just a press release: it likely means the Wisconsin governor and conservative hero to many nationally will be willing to do what he can — i.e. raise money — for Reynolds’ campaign.

Of course, Walker has his own re-election campaign to run in 2018. He does not, at this point, have a serious primary challenger.

Iowa Legislature