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KTD kicks off first BBQ contest

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Moe Cason shows off his turkey entry on his way to the judges booth Saturday morning.

WORTHINGTON -- There were 18 competitors in Saturday's inaugural King Turkey Day Smokin' Gobbler BBQ Contest, but one of them was a celebrity of sorts with a television appearance to his credit.

Moe Cason, the self-proclaimed "Ultimate 380-Pound Underdog" and a competitive barbecuer previously featured on TLC's "BBQ Pitmasters" television program, was among those trying to earn valuable points in the Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned event. The Worthington cook-off is one of many over the course of a typical year for Cason.

"I usually do 20 a year," Cason said. "This year's it will be a little more - this is number 20. Right now, I'm ninth (in season standings) in the pork category, so it's important for me to get a high call here."

Cason, of Ponderosa BBQ in Des Moines, Iowa, may be a recognizable face to some TV viewers, as well as a difficult-to-miss figure, but the easy-going cook doesn't think of himself as a big name.

"I have a favorite quote, 'Walk softly and carry a big stick,' from Roosevelt," Cason said. "That's what I think about barbecue. There are guys who have won 50 million more times than I have. I just try do enough to keep right there in the mix with them. Some guys have got these really big outfits, but I've just got my pickup and trailer. I'm doing it old-school."

Cason grew up being exposed to a love for cooking -- and a lot of it. He has a picture of his late grandmother surrounded by a large family -- Cason said she had 17 kids -- posted in his trailer, with the entire contingent sitting around a table.

"She was an excellent cook, an excellent cook," Cason stated. "My mom was an excellent cook. Everything they did was made from scratch. My family was just made for cooking."

Cason cooked well enough Saturday to end up with a first-place rating in the ribs category and second place in the pork.

Call him a seasoned vet (pun intended) of competitive barbecuing -- more so than some of his Saturday rivals, anyway.

"We went to a contest up in Marshall about five years ago and we kind of worked on getting involved," explained Bill Mulso of Marshall, who along with Mike Kramer and Tony Mensink, was competing at the Sons of Butchers team.

"Last year was the first year we competed; this year we've been to Owatonna, St. Cloud, Marshall and now here." Mulso added.

The Sons of Butchers, not to mention the other contestants, did "turn-ins" of their creations in chicken, pork, ribs and brisket on Saturday.

There was also a turkey division especially for Worthington, though that class wasn't officially KCBS-recognized.

"A majority of the events are in 25-to-40 team range," Mulso said. "But for the first year here, it's a very good turnout. This quality of teams, you're not going to get much better in the Upper Midwest."

Scott Belz of Worthington and Dave Dale of Sherburn, meanwhile, were competing as Good Ol Boys BBQ in their first-ever competitive barbecuing event.

"I found it on Facebook --Kevin Feit (a Worthington High School alumnus who also competed Saturday) had it on his page," Belz said. "My partner Dave Dale called me up and said, 'I think we should enter.' There are a lot of big names out here, and we're just looking for experience."

"We split up what we grill," Dale added. "I've got one grill, Scott's got another ... and we just work together as a team."

Ending up first in the overall standings was TippyCanoe BBQ Crew of St. Ansgar, Iowa, which tied for first in the brisket category and did solidly enough in the others. 

Sons of Butchers took first in the non-sanctioned turkey category, while Raccoon Flats of Des Moines was first in chicken and The Heat is On tops in pork.

Ryan McGaughey

I first joined the Daily Globe in April 2001 as sports editor. I later became the news editor in November 2002, and the managing editor in August 2006. I'm originally from New York State, and am married with two children.

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