Big crowd shows up for ‘Showdown’

       The Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group seems to have found itself another annual event.

While the Mystic Biscuit band plays on the Bancroft Park stage, people enjoy food, vendor offerings and a sunny morning (the rains came later) on the first day of the Old Town Showdown July 25.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The first-time Old Town Showdown attracted at least 1,000 people over the weekend of July 25-26 and best of all, “we're in the black,” OCCA President Charlie Irwin said.
       Much of the earnings resulted from the sales of about 600 coupons, at $5 each, which let people sample chili and/or barbecued meat from about 20 locations in Old Colorado City for eight or nine hours each day, then vote for their favorites. The OCCA spiced the event with live music in different locations and a beer garden in the Old Town Plaza parking lot at 25th and Colorado; also, some enterprising merchants and vendors offered water or soft drinks for sale.
       The chili and barbecue cooks were from local restaurants or places that prepare food, with most of the participating businesses from Old Colorado City.
       “It was terrific,” enthused Kathy Bousquet, co-owner of Barbeque Mercantile, an Old Town specialty shop that was a major sponsor. “Everyone seemed to have a good time.”
       Despite intermittent rain both days, there was a steady flow of people along the avenue between 24th and 27th streets, stopping at outside booths or inside restaurants to sample food that was fresh and hot in most cases. “There was excellent foot traffic,” Irwin said.
       Diane Dimbat, who coordinated the event for the OCCA, estimated overall attendance at more than 1,000, including many who may not have bought tickets but just wanted to enjoy the “beauty of the event.”
   
Scenes from the July 25-26 Old Town Showdown in Old Colorado City... LEFT: Lindsey Merlino (far left) of Thunder & Buttons marks a coupon and prepares to dish out a sample of chili in exchange. RIGHT: With an 1876 Peter Shettler wagon, Bon Ton's restaurant had a cooking/serving set-up that seemed to fit the name of the event. From left are Kenny Craddock (left), cook Patrick Medina and Bon Ton's owner Catherine Barbo.
Westside Pioneer photos

       The direction the Showdown goes in the future will likely be the subject of discussion among Old Colorado City business people. Bousquet sees possibilities in having it sanctioned as a formal tasting event by the nationally recognized Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCSB). Such an event - involving large cooking teams from around the country with huge rigs and the need to close off streets - was actually looked at this year, but the OCCA decided to try a BBQ/chili competition on a smaller scale first.
       Irwin's view is that the Showdown's small scale worked so well that it should stay that way. “A KCSB-sanctioned event would be very expensive, with a lot of rules and regulations, down to the size of the stainless steel container meat is held in,” he said. “It's like rocket science. Although we'd love to do that, we found this weekend that just doing it with local restaurants was our recipe for success, no pun intended.”

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