If you have trouble finding out where Rib Fest is, just follow your nose.

Follow that succulent smell of barbecued ribs until you make your way into Battery Park. And if your smeller isn’t working like it should, then just look down at the lines of drool on the sidewalk – that ought to lead you to Rib Fest.

Siouxland’s annual rib cook off is also a charity benefit for Camp High Hopes. Patrons that pay a $10 admission can enjoy ribs made by a plethora of local barbecue connoisseurs.

Landon Smith is only one of the many cooks taking part in this year’s festival. He and Chad Mach will be representing S&M BBQ. Rib Fest 2017 is also the first time Smith and Mach have ever competed in a barbecue contest. The Weekender spoke to Smith about his background with barbecue:

How did you get started in barbecue?

I started barbecuing about five years ago. One of my friends and I kinda made food back and forth. I’d test his stuff, he’d test mine. We’d just kinda judge each other a little bit. We started having fun with it and this year said, “Well, what would you think about getting into competition?” He said yeah. We bought a bigger grill and been practicing with that. And that’s kind of how the whole thing got going.

What do you specialize in?

We’re really good with poultry. We do a lot of whole chickens. But pretty much do everything. I’m really good at the chicken. Chad, on the other hand, he likes doing pork or beef. That’s what’s kind of fun about this competition. He’s a lot better than I am with the pork and the beef, and I kind have him beat on the chicken.

How would you define good barbecue?

Honestly, a low smoke flavor and simplicity. My biggest thing is I don’t like a lot of smoke flavor. I like the smoke flavor but I like a light smoke flavor. I have friends that I go out camping with and they’ll make [their barbecue] too spicy or something. We’re all friends so we can be honest with each other. Sometimes they’ll go too much on the spicy side or sweet side. I side with the simpler spices and simpler tasting food. With outdoor barbecue, people have a tendency to try a little bit too hard. We like to still be able to taste the flavor of the meat.

Are you the kind of barbecue guy that prefers sauce on the meat or on the side?

Personally, I like the sauce on the side. But for Rib Fest, what we’ll do is probably put barbecue sauce on the last 90 minutes of cooking. There are a lot of people that really do like that. I’m not so much like that but I think for Rib Fest we’ll do that just for something a little bit different than what we usually do.

Is this your first visit to Rib Fest?

Yup. It’s our first time. We’re just out there to have fun. I honestly don't think we'll win. But we're honestly out there to have a good time and meet some new people. 

Are you feeling any sort of pressure?

As far as winning, we're not too concerned. We're more under pressure about the prep work and how much time we have to do the meat and to get everything ready. That's the only thing that's kind of intimidating right now.

What do you think is something people need to think about more when barbecuing?

I think people tend to try a bit too hard with barbecue. They'll over season the meat. My ideal is when you're barbecuing you're more or less doing it for fun, whether it be a competition or not. You should be doing it for enjoyment. I think if they'd kick back and relax a little bit more then it would be a lot easier on them.

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