MASON CITY | Competing in barbecue competitions isn't for the weak of heart, according to Bill Milroy of Denton, Texas.
Milroy, of the Texas Rib Rangers barbecue team, was one of the first teams to arrive Thursday in East Park for the 11th annual Up in Smoke Barbecue Bash.
"We have had a crazy year," he said as he and his assistant James Blake unloaded food and equipment from a truck.
On the way to Mason City from a contest in New Mexico, the truck experienced several breakdowns and had a flat tire, Milroy said.
When they arrived, it was time to unload food and heavy equipment, including a 550-pound competition smoker.
"James and I are on the road all the time," said Milroy, 58.
In Mason City, the Texas Rib Rangers will compete with 51 other barbecue teams.
He said his team is known for its pork ribs, sauces and rubs.
Milroy said he returns to Mason City year after year because he loves the event — the organization, the location and the people.
"They put on a good show," he said.
Scott Nelson of Rockwell and family members from the Pig Skin BBQ team set up a large display of barbecue trophies they had won.
"We cook about 20 to 25 contests every year," Nelson said.
They arrived in East Park at 9 a.m. Thursday and waited until the last of the RAGBRAI campers had left before they started setting up.
"We'll start the smoker at 6:30 a.m. Friday," he said.
It is the seventh year the family has competed in the Up in Smoke BBQ Bash.
Matt Ouverson of Norwalk and members of The Wicked Pig barbecue team are in their fifth year at the Globe Gazette-sponsored event.
"It's the best event in the Midwest," Ouverson said.
The team arrived Wednesday night and served about 100 racks of ribs to RAGBRAI riders in the park, he said.
They were planning to start cooking for the Barbecue Bash at midnight Friday.
Ouverson said he likes the Barbecue Bash because "the park is real nice here."
"I like all the trees. The people and all the barbecuers are just like family. This is the biggest contest in Iowa," he said. "This one brings a lot of big-time people here."