But this partyin' porterhouse turned green around the edges when it heard that, on the very first night all ever-lovin' hell broke loose at one of the tents, requiring the most unsavory deployment of a paddy wagon.
Not having been there to witness the event personally, with what would undoubtedly have been the keen observation skills of stone-cold sobriety, this meat patty is left to reconstruct the sordid tale based on the testimony of supposedly debauched miscreants.
Read on, if you can stand it.
This year's barbecue contest drew a record number of entries: 474 teams for the open contest and 81 teams for the high-dollar invitational. And all of those smokers knew that some hopped-up socializin' would accompany all the cattle judging and horse wrangling that's been part of the American Royal for more than 100 years. Hell, the American Royal Barbecue brochures include fill-in-the-blank invitations to "Come party with us in space ___."
One of this year's teams goes by the handle Top of the Bottoms. It's a rowdy mix of musicians some of them are also the lawyers (which may come in handy) who play in the Litigators and scenesters who frequent West Bottoms galleries and hang around the gritty corner of 18th Street and Baltimore, where Y.J.'s Snack Bar anchors a block of homegrown businesses (such as the arty-underwear shop Birdies) that has been the site of many a carnival-like evening.
Top of the Bottoms has been taking part in the Royal's festivities for four years now, but this time the team recruited a few grilling ringers to help them make a showing in the actual contest, and about 50 others to kick in money for the entry fee, the raw meat and, of course, the beverages.
The team proceeded to settle into its little homestead in the tent city that springs up every year near Kemper Arena. Top of the Bottoms was assigned a plot on the north side of Kemper, where members hauled in amplifiers for the two bands they'd booked. They strung some lights and set up an altar to Maximon, whom they call the "patron saint of bad habits."
Then they started cooking chicken and waffles, two great tastes that taste great together.
The crowd was mostly in their twenties and thirties, but a few kids were there, and even a baby. Everyone was having a spectacular evening until sometime between 11 p.m. and midnight.
That's when a man drove up in a golf cart sporting an official hangtag of some kind. He identified himself as a representative of the Kansas City Barbecue Society, according to folks who were there. The Barbecue Society sanctions the American Royal Barbecue and 200 other cook-offs like it year-round. By sanctioning, we mean the group runs the contest, making sure it conforms to its rules and regulations. Those regs include a stipulation that teams observe quiet time after 11 p.m., presumably to make sure that everyone gets their beauty rest.
But that 11 p.m. time has never really applied to the Royal, which has its own 1 a.m. quiet-time rule.
"It's sort of grandfathered in," explains Carolyn Wells, the Barbecue Society's executive director.
Wells says her posse was long gone by the time the Top of the Bottoms situation heated up. And, she says, none of her men wore a goatee, which was how one witness described the golf-cart party crasher.
"We are not the barbecue police," Wells says. "We are not in charge of security."
Though the Top of the Bottoms crew was surprised by the shut-down order, its various members tell the Strip that they complied. The Litigators packed up their instruments, and someone plugged an iPod to the speaker system but turned it way down.
They even asked the purported Barbecue Society rep if it was cool. He said it was.
Soon, says team member Bob Parks, a couple of security guards paid their own visit. They, too, said that the commotion at the tent was at an appropriate.
Then the first guy returned with reinforcements, Parks says.
"We look up, and we see there are police officers stationed strategically around our tent," Parks says.
Parks doesn't want to tell us about what, exactly, happened next; he's saving his talkin' for his attorney.
But fellow team member Philip Keegan says he was surprised by the sudden arrival of Kansas City's finest. "They ended up cuffing one of the gentlemen at the party," Keegan says. "That obviously didn't make people terribly happy. Parks started asking, 'Why are you arresting him? What is the charge?' They really weren't responding. The next thing I know, Bob seems to be under arrest. Things at this point aren't going well at all."
Police put out an "assist the officer" call, which drew many more men in blue and the van.
Police also arrested the wife of one of the Litigators. She was allegedly part of a group of people being cleared out because they were "intoxicated and belligerent," according to a police report.
"Several of the party were yelling obscenities at officers as they packed their belongings while other members of the group were just standing around," the report reads.
According to officer Andrew Gore's account, Mrs. Litigator wasn't standing around. "As she yelled, saliva was being unintentionally sprayed on PO [police officer Ryan] Hoerath's face which indicated she was very close to PO Hoerath, and in violation of his personal space," Gore wrote.
We thought a little spit was just a normal part of any barbecue contest, but Gore arrested Mrs. L for obstructing and resisting an officer, handcuffed her and took her to jail. Same for Parks and two others.
Parks tells the Strip that American Royal organizers have been sympathetic toward him and his fellow perps and have promised to help get to the bottom of what led to the ill-fated showdown.
That's good, because this cranky cutlet can't wait to hear how it's really possible to get punished for having a party at a party.