One of Tulsa's tastiest traditions, The Art of Barbeque, will be tickling taste buds at ONEOK Field Friday, Sept. 24-25. Presented by the Oklahoma Central Credit Union, the Art of Barbeque is a world-class barbeque cook-off contest that directly benefits the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa.
This year's contest is comprised of fifty teams from Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas, ranging from backyard BBQ-ers to major names with substantial followings. The Art of Barbeque is officially sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society, meaning the Grand Champion of this year's competition will represent Oklahoma in the National Championship Cook-off in Kansas City in October. All of the teams will be judged in the categories of pork, ribs, sausage, brisket and chicken. The team with the highest score from these categories will be determined Grand Champion and will receive the $1000 cash prize. Also on Saturday, visitors can participate in a People's Choice Award competition. Guests are able to purchase a taster kit for $10 in which they can sample barbeque from the teams and vote on their favorite. The taster kit sampling will take place on Saturday beginning at 11:30am and ending around 2pm.
Throughout its 13-year history, The Art of Barbeque has shifted venues as its popularity increased. It was first held in front of the Harwelden Mansion, the home of the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa. As the event grew in size, it moved to the University of Oklahoma's Schuesterman Campus where it has been held for the past five years. This year, the Art of Barbeque will take place at ONEOK Field in an effort to extend usage of the ballpark beyond baseball season and contribute to the resurgence of downtown. This switch in venue has also shifted the season of this event from June to September, a welcome change for visitors and teams who will now enjoy barbeque along with a cool fall breeze as opposed to the oppressive heat of summer.
The event kicks off at 4pm on Friday, Sept. 24 with barbeque, hot dogs and beverages provided by the Drillers. During the evening, live music will be provided by the Mid-Life Crisis Band right inside the stadium's gates. The event is family friendly, with a Kid's Zone featuring inflatables, mascots and a fire truck. Guests can also watch teams prepare for Saturday's cookout lining the streets around the stadium at the corner of Elgin and Archer.
On Saturday, the event recommences at 11am, when visitors can sample barbeque of their choice, purchase taster kits and watch the awards presentation at 3pm. "It's the best barbeque in a four state area," said Ken Busby, Executive Direct of the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa.
Admission to the event is $2. All proceeds from admission, taster kits and team registration directly benefit the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa's Artists in the Schools program.
The Artists in the Schools program is one of the Arts and Humanities Council's most important and successful endeavors in realizing the organization's vision of providing an arts and humanities education to 100 percent of Tulsa's school-age children. Through this program, teaching artists visit students in at-risk or underserved populations providing a supplemental arts and humanities curriculum that complements the teachers lesson plans. This program directly benefits the students providing them with experiences they would have otherwise not received.
The money raised from The Art of Barbeque will go toward the cost of paying teaching artists and the costs of supplies for students to use.
The move to ONEOK Field is beneficial not only to the stadium's wish to extend its usage past baseball season. Its location in the Brady Arts District puts it in very close proximity to the future site of the Visual Arts Center (VAC), a long-time project of the Arts and Humanities Council. The VAC will offer a number of much needed resources for Tulsa's arts community.
"The facility will offer classroom space that will advance and extend learning opportunities for kids," Busby said. It will also extend learning opportunities to the community by providing weekend and family programming. In addition to educational possibilities, the VAC will offer additional gallery and studio space for local artists in the heart of the rapidly growing Brady Arts District.
The presence of the VAC will also provide the Arts and Humanities Council with an increased level of partnership between the Oklahoma Visual Artist Coalition and the Oklahoma Arts Institute. Both organizations offer classes and workshops that teach local artists the skills they need to become successful professional artists. This 40,000-square-foot facility is currently scheduled to begin ground breaking in April of 2011 and open to the public in May of 2012.
In addition to preparing for the construction of the Visual Arts Center, the Arts and Humanities Council is continuing to work with the George Kaiser Family Foundation to expand the west half of the Brady District's Matthews Building to transform it into artists' lofts and additional gallery space. A renewed interest in this project has pushed back the opening of the Visuals Arts Center but in the end, both will provide valuable, and much needed services for local artists.
With cooler weather, a new downtown location and delicious food this year's Art of Barbeque has all the right ingredients for success. More information is available online at tulsaartofbbq.com and ahct.org.
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