MASON CITY | The smell of spices and smoke wafted from Steve Bryant's tent Saturday at the Up in Smoke BBQ Bash.
Bryant, of Ames, and his son, Josh, were waiting for their chicken, pork and beef to finish cooking before judging at the 12th annual barbecue competition. Sponsored by the Globe Gazette, the Bash is held annually in Mason City’s East Park.
The Bryants have been at every Bash. Steve Bryant has been in competitive barbecue since 1989.
"(We've) always liked outdoor cooking and this was a natural step forward for us years and years and years ago," Bryant said.
In the years since, competition has gotten more intense.
"The thing is all the teams get better every year. All of them," Bryant said. "Everybody has a new approach. ... Everybody cooks similar, but with a few variations."
On Saturday, the Bryants pinned their hopes to their pork.
The trick is to go low and slow. Something cooked that way is bound to taste good, they said.
"You can make a tough piece of meat palatable, which is what our barbecue cuts are," Bryant said.
Their choices didn't let them down. Meadow Valley won the pork category, beating out eventual 2015 overall champion Iowa's Smokey D's BBQ.
Meadow Valley finished 17th overall out of 54 entries.
This year's Bash also featured contests for SPAM, desserts and chili.
John and Jessica Edgington, of Mason City, said they loved the chili contest.
They voted in the chili contest on Friday night, returning on Saturday with family members. The group included their twin niece and nephew, Arabella and Hatcher McCarty, 2.
"The chili tasting was awesome," said John Edgington, of Mason City.
He and Jessica particularly liked Black Dog BBQ.
"They had cinnamon in theirs and it was amazing," Jessica said.
They've been to the Bash the past few years. It's something they enjoy.
"Good food, good atmosphere and it's just a fun time," John said.
Behind the stage, Mason City Mohawk Danzers Haley Wiemann, Bridget Morel, Jessalyn Frenz and Sami Haberman found a spot in the shade to rest and try the food from the vendors after a special dance performance for Bash spectators.
The Mason City teens and other dancers did a flash mob — a surprise performance — on the street in front of many surprised onlookers.
They agreed the performance was fun, but joked with each other about what type of barbecue was the best.
Wiemann and Haberman sat at one picnic table with pulled pork sandwiches. Morel and Frenz, the chicken lovers, sat right next to them at a second table.
“We have our separate tables,” Wiemann cracked.
Back at the Edgington’s table, twins Arabella and Hatcher McCarty were standing on a picnic table bopping along to the music of Bolder Road.
Unlike the dancers, the twins are on the same page when it comes to barbecue.
“They like food,” Jessica Edgington said, smiling.