The American Royal cancels World Series of Barbecue over health, safety concerns

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Bad news for barbecue enthusiasts this year.

The American Royal announced Tuesday that it decided to cancel this year’s World Series of Barbecue, which was scheduled for September 17-20, due to concerns over COVID-19.

“Not being able to host the world’s largest barbecue competition that does so many good things for Kansas City and the community as well as our organizations — it’s a challenge and it’s a disappointment,” said Glen Alan Phillips, president and CEO of the American Royal Association.

The organization said it explored all options along with partners, sponsors and local health officials that would enable them to be both safe and financially responsible, and determined that holding the event in 2020 was simply not feasible.

“The health and safety of our participants, guests, volunteers and employees has always been our top priority,” Phillips said. “This was not the outcome any of us hoped for, but I am confident it is the right decision for the long-term continued success of the event in support of our charitable mission.”

All registered 2020 teams will be given a full refund and have the same space available to them for the 2021 event.

“If you listen to the people who know better than I do, they want people to stay in and quit going out. I think it’s best on the COVID front, but it’s also for the best because teams like us need more practice so next year we can come out swinging,” said Jack Sheeley, who represents Kansas City-based ‘Nothing Butt Trouble’ cookoff team. 

The next World Series of Barbecue has been tentatively scheduled for September 16-19, 2021. Since 2016, the event has been held at the Kansas Speedway.

The American Royal contributes $1 million annually towards scholarships and outreach initiatives.

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