I think only one word can sum up the 15th Annual Kansas City Pipe Show that happened June 21st through 22nd 2014 and that word is "awesomesauce."
You see this was my first ever pipe show to attend and I had no idea what to expect…except from the talk about how much fun people had at Chicago or similar shows.
Another forum member, Msandoval858 and I, chose to drive 10 hours from Austin, TX to Kansas City, MO for the show. From the moment we arrived the schedule was jam-packed with things going on, people to see and talk to, and food to try. I could hardly keep up, but I took a few pictures, and I’ll try to fill you in on how it went.
Now you cannot visit Kansas City without trying at least a couple of the amazing BBQ places and food establishments that have been put on the map and showcased by the various foodie TV shows and news reports.
Our first stop upon reaching Kansas City was Arthur Bryant’s BBQ. Arthur Bryant’s is a Kansas City tradition that has been visited by US presidents, movie stars, and now, yours truly. The BBQ was exquisite, and the Kansas style burnt ends were delectable. If there is one thing you should try in Kansas City its the burnt ends.
The location of this year’s show was the Kansas City Argosy Casino and Hotel. While you couldn’t smoke inside the exhibit hall, you could smoke in the casino and the bar, but most of the action occurred in the smoking tent. This venue had wonderful accommodations and the hotel staff was very friendly.
After checking in and getting settled, it was time to enjoy what Friday night had to offer which was picking up our registration packs and heading down to the smoking tent to meet the carvers, industry insiders, and have a few drinks at the outdoor cash bar.
Mark Ryan of Daughters & Ryan talks about Perique
The feature for Friday night was a talk and Q&A with Mark Ryan of Daughters & Ryan (D&R) on the current status of perique tobacco at the La Poche Perique Tobacco facility in St. James Parish, LA. He touched on similar things you may have heard on the pipesmagazine.com radio show and he talked about his 1.2 million dollar investment on a receiving center to receive the tobacco from the farmers and handle the entire process such as removing the stems from the leaves. Next, Mark discussed a hot-button issue: the crippling FDA regulations and if they (The FDA) go through with implementing them, how we’re in for a world of hurt with the cost of doing business skyrocketing.
After the talk we met and chatted with other forum members like Mr. Jerke, fellow Texan, Steve "pipestud" Fallon, and the voice of the radio Mr. Brian Levine.
We sampled about a 14 year old tin of Escudo brought by Mr. Jerke and another similar tin brought by Austin Pipe Club member Richard. We did a comparison between them, noting very subtle differences, but for the most part they were both smooth and amazing smokes.
Jordan Jerke (Mr. Jerke) Brian Levine, and Steve Fallon
The pipe carvers pulled out their pipes for a little pre-show and tell and many of them sold their pipes right there. We met a good number of the carvers like Ryan Alden, (who I suckered into making me a pipe post show) Nate King, Thomas James, Jesse Jones, Scott Thile, Jerry Crawford, Scottie Piersel, and Premal Cheda.
Nate King’s Steam Punk Style Pipe
One of the things we learned is that many times the carvers would sell the pipes but wanted to include them the next day on their table with a sold sticker as a showcase of their work—which makes sense—but is hard thing to do if you’re a collector sometimes since you’re wanting to smoke your new prize!
Saturday, the show opened at 9am and we were waiting at the doors with anticipation. Taking the advice we received from Max from pipes2smoke.com we strolled through every table prior to making a purchase so as to get an idea of all of the options. With 78 tables to walk through and chat with the carvers and proprietors you can imagine that making that first pass took some time. By the time I had made one complete revolution through the room it was time for lunch, and to visit a place that I had seen from the Interstate that you can’t avoid missing because it’s a 1930s DC-3 Airplane sticking up in the sky above a building: The Roasterie.
The plane came from an airplane boneyard in New Mexico and for them symbolizes the spirit and adventure and fun in the company and it ties in with Kansas City’s strong Aviation history. The Roasterie offers free tours of their facility and 9 of their coffees have received a ranking of 90 or higher on Coffeereview.com.
Every room at the Argosy hotel had Roasterie coffee cups and coffee provided in their room as it is the go-to coffee for Kansas City. For the Starbucks lovers out there this is a great change of pace, and their lunch offerings are superb for anyone looking for a light lunch—which was what we did. Check out the Mocha Motion, an iced coffee, which is great this time of year.
Back at the show after lunch we made the rounds again and I picked up some great pipes from various estate sellers and chatted with Nate King about his Airstream line of pipes he’s working on that are very detailed and have a streamlined look and feel in only a style that Nate could do. I’m very excited to see what his creative brain will come up with next.
Next it was on to talk to Russ Oulette who was offering samples of various blends and the brand new Missouri Meerchaum blends. We chatted him up a bit and thanked him for his blending excellence.
Then over to the Smokers Haven table to have a quick talk with Premal— who was the only vendor that brought stem material (ebonite) and raw briar. Premal also had plenty of Smokers Haven blends to sample and for sale — many people go for Exotique which is a great oriental/latakia blend.
Of course who couldn’t pass up a chance to talk with the great, the wonderfully nice, Lee Von Erck. Msandoval858 had picked up one of his estates from 1997 or so and brought it to ask him about it. Like just about every pipe Lee makes he remembered it and then talked about how he made it. His work and his oil curing process are always amazing to look at with a sense of wonderment at how light the briar is and how beautiful the craftsmanship is.
Lee Von Erck
The evening festivities included a banquet dinner where we were graced with Steve Fallon’s "presentation that wasn’t a presentation." Mostly we were amused by his lightning wit and jokes as he brought up various groups and individuals at the dinner and asked them questions, injected humor, and read some funny emails from his ebay store that had us all busting a gut.
Sunday: The Last Day.
Sunday was the last day of the show and was the day of the slow smoke competition. Now myself, msandoval858, and some of the other members of our Austin club had actually practiced for this event. Not that we had any chance to win, but we wanted to at least not pull a Brian Levine and go out right after the 2nd match.
The pipes provided for the contest were Ben Wade billiards and smoked very well and was worth more than the cost of the entry into the competition. Now if I was a betting man, I would have had money on Steve Fallon who had previously done very well in the competitions but I would have lost that bet this time around. He narrowly missed 3rd place spot by mere seconds. I managed to catch video of the last 4 to go out and the winner:
1. Dave Houfek 53.41
2. Mitch Denny 49.25
3.Vladimir Jirinec 48.02
Dave Houfek took the 1st place spot and walked away with a Neptune pipe created by Todd Johnson and Pete Provost’s side venture, Briarworks International.
With the show coming to a close it was time to hit the last food place on my list of Kansas City hot spots to try out before heading home to Austin. Stroud’s Restaurant is home of the pan fried chicken and featured on many TV shows like Man v Food, No Reservations, and The Best Thing I Ever Ate.
When I say this is good fried chicken, I mean it. They do a pan fried chicken and then drain the soybean oil and use the leftover chicken drippings to make some mouth watering gravy to drizzle over your mashed potatoes and chicken. It was so good that I actually had them bring out another bowl of gravy. Stroud’s is also famous for their cinnamon dinner rolls. Most people end up leaving with an extra box of them to take home, they are just that good.
When we came back to the show it was just in time for the raffle of the 7 Day set. The set was comprised of pipes sent in from a number of carvers in hopes of winning the carving contest- the 7 carvers that won the carving contest are:
1. Ryan Alden
2. Tyler Beard
3. Premal Chheda
4. Rad Davis
5. Jesse Jones
6. Nate King
7. Colin Rigby
Unfortunately, like all of the raffle and door prizes, I did not walk away with the prize. I did pick up some great tobacco and pipes from the show and that in itself was the best prize.
The show wrapped at 3pm and the vendors packed up, but the post-show celebrations and smoking continued out in the smoking tent. I would always suggest staying until the show ends as all of those hard working KC Pipe Club staff can breath a sigh of relief and you can have a chance to chat with the guys and gals who were just too busy during the event. In summation I’d like to say thanks to the whole KC Pipe Club who ran a well organized, great event that I’ll be sure to come back to year after year. If I missed talking to you, I’m sorry, I tried to get around to everyone, but don’t worry we’ll chat next time!