CLINTON — For the second year in a row, Riverboat Days will feature a barbecue contest.

Smokin’ on the River will be held on Saturday on Riverview Drive, with judging beginning at noon.

Contest organizer and Riverboat Days Commodore Ryan Veenstra said that last year’s contest was a “fan favorite.”

“We were very pleased with the turnout and success of last year’s contest,” said Veenstra, “and hope that 2007 is even better.”

Veenstra said that, as of Friday, 24 teams were confirmed for the cookoff. Almost 90 percent of the teams that participated in 2006 are returning, and eight new teams will participate in this year’s competition.

“Our committee’s goal is to have the entire Riverview Drive lined up and down with cookers,” said Veenstra. “In my opinion we have one of the picturesque venues to offer to the barbecue world.”

Joe McManus, a 2006 participant that will return this year, agreed.

“Summer breezes, the Mississippi rolling by, dinner with old friends, breakfast with new ones, an enthusiastic community, your kids playing in a sprinkler on a hot day, Norman Rockwell couldn’t have captured a better setting for a barbecue competition,” McManus said.

“Clinton Riverboat Days barbecue contest stands in our minds as one of the best we’ve done,” McManus continued.

“... We’ve planned our return to Clinton this July since the day we left last July.”

Fan favorite Scottie Johnson also will return this year. Johnson’s team is, and he donates all of his winnings to cancer research in memory of his wife, Corliss, who died in 2003 from cancer.

Johnson is no stranger to barbecue competitions. Johnson was also invited to the 2006 Jack Daniels Invitational. While he was at the competition in Lynchberg, Tenn., his father died. The grief stricken Johnson went on to become Grand Champion of the 2006 Jack Daniels World Barbecue Championship.

Johnson is enthusiastic about his return to Clinton.

“They have a great location overlooking the Mississippi River,” Johnson said. “It is a family friendly contest. The volunteers do an outstanding job and really cater to us cooks. This is a can’t miss contest!”

“Scottie turned down ... an all-expense paid international competition in Canada so that he could be with us in Clinton,” Veenstra added. “That means a lot to us.”

Four local teams will compete in Smokin on the River. Returning local champion Craig Claussen and Meathead Cooking, Inc. will be joined by the Rickertsen Family, River City Smokers and the Lyondell BBQ team.

Four categories will be judged at the competition: chicken, beef brisket, pork shoulder and pork ribs. The panel of 30 judges are all certified by the Kansas City Barbecue Society. Most of the judges are from the area, some will come from as far away as Virginia.

Veenstra explained that one judge was especially excited to be invited to the event. Pat Norris, a KCBS certified judge, was born in Clinton and is happy to return for the contest.

“Mr. Norris was speechless when I called him to let him know that we would like to have him come and judge,” Veenstra explained.

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