By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
The idea of creating an Oklahoma Barbecue Society has been around for years.
Now, it is a reality, and a Garfield County woman is part of it.
Lynne Benkendorf, of Breckinridge, was named a director of the new society, said Brett Varnell, president.
“People have been talking about it. The idea has been kicked around for years,” Varnell said.
Benkendorf became involved when she went to the Kansas City Barbeque Society to discuss a banquet and trade show. The KCBS did not respond, but when a representative overheard Varnell and a group discussing the same thing, he advised them to contact Benkendorf.
“When they applied, I jumped on the opportunity, Benkendorf said. “The whole idea is to bring together all of the contest organizations to work as one.”
There are 17 KCBS-sanctioned barbecue contests in Oklahoma. The state society will give all of them an opportunity to share ideas and for all contests to be successful, she said. Benkendorf also wants to encourage “backyard barbecuers” to get involved. The contests still will be KCBS sanctioned, but nationally there are 5,000 KCBS teams. That can be intimidating for a small barbecue group that feels they cannot compete with the large organizations.
“The state level makes it more equal for backyard barbecuers,” Benkendorf said.
Varnell volunteered to lead the group for the first year, because he has the time to do it. He also has experience organizing judges and helping with cookoffs.
Benkendorf, who works for Eagle Marketing, has been part of Roberts Ranch Smokin’ Red Dirt BBQ every year since its inception. She is the lone representative on Oklahoma Barbecue Society from western Oklahoma. The Oklahoma group is separate from the Kansas City Barbeque Society, which is the original barbecue society in the United States. However, Varnell said they consider themselves a “sister” group.
“We’re not trying to take over what they do. We want to work with them, and they will still do the big contests,” Varnell said.
The Oklahoma group is trying to organize judges, cook teams, businesses and organizations that sponsor contests. Varnell said Oklahoma has many barbecue businesses. Next year, the group will recognize a team of the year, featuring the team with the most wins in contests. OBS will figure a scoring system to judge the teams, and will have an annual banquet to recognize organizations and judges and bring businesses together in one group, he said.
One of the primary purposes is organizing those interested in barbecue cooking contests, educate the public, organize competitions and help new competitions get started.
“We’re trying to help the smaller contests as well as the big ones,” Varnell said.
Varnell said the group can organize contests more efficiently, bring more business to the state and promote barbecue.
“Things are moving so fast, my head is almost spinning,” Varnell said. “We’ve had overwhelmingly positive responses, and I think we will be a great organization.”
KCBS sanctions 17 barbecue cookoffs in Oklahoma, but Varnell said there are many more held. The Oklahoma group will work with those groups and help them to become sanctioned or help build up their contests.
Benkendorf is trying to put together a trade show within the next year, where businesses and restaurants can all come together in one place.
“If you’re a barbecue nut, you can come in there and it will be like Valhalla,” Varnell said.
Other officers are Donny Teel, Sperry, vice president; Merl Whitebrook, Bartlesville, secretary; and Bob Hastings, Broken Arrow, treasurer. Beside Benkendorf, directors are Stuart Powell, Ponca City; Paul Schatte, Ponca City; David Qualls, Tecumseh; and David Bouska, Chandler.