Music is the main event at Country Stampede, but refreshments are what keeps the party going.
That’s especially true in the festival campgrounds, where the smell of cooking meat permeates the air and red Solo cups are abundant.
The four-day music festival is a marathon of dancing, drinking and walking about in the elements, so refueling is crucial to having a good time. The most successful campers come wellstocked with meats to grill, snacks to share and a variety of beverages from magaritas to moonshine.
Here are some tips for cooking out from some of the best campsite setups we came across.
Be creative with your meats
The necessity to grill naturally leads campers to stock up on meats.
Even major carnivores will get sick of burgers and dogs after a while, though, so being inventive is a must.
In addition to beef products, some attendees were firing up venison steaks, bacon-wrapped shrimp and ribs.
Shawn Devore of Valley Center was cooking chicken and green bell pepper kebabs at his campsite on Friday.
He said during Stampede, the men in his group do the cooking.
“We try to let the girls off,” he said.
He had come with some friends, including Justin Hankins of Newton (attending his 17th Stampede), and Justin’s brother Josh (marking his 19th).
Justin said one thing they like to do to vary the menu is make “hobo dinners.” They put hamburgers, potatoes, green pepper and onion in a foil packet, season it and put it on the grill. Other campers also tried to boost the flavor of their burgers with special seasonings. Cody Sneed, originally from Nashville but a recent transplant to Manhattan as a member of the military, and his new friend, Kassadee Grice of Independence, Mo., said the cook at their campsite was quite talented.
Sneed said Les Wilkerson of Holton, who does most of their cooking, mixes crushed Doritos into raw hamburger to give the patties a boost of nacho cheese. “We do hamburgers, steaks — anything beef because we raise beef,” Wilkerson said. “And no MREs,” he added for Sneed’s benefit.
Go big or go home
This isn’t a one-night campout, so it’s worth lugging whatever creature comforts you can manage.
John Sutton of Topeka had hooked up an industrial-grade margarita machine and was serving frozen lime margaritas and pina coladas out of the back of his SUV to passersby.
He said he and his friends go through 18 gallons of mixed drinks before they run out — which he estimated would happen on Saturday afternoon.
“We did this last year,” he said. “It’s very popular.”
He said they don’t charge for the drinks (which would be illegal anyway), they just do it to have fun and meet people. And judging from the number of people milling about for a cold drink on Friday, they were going to make a lot of friends.
Down the road, a couple had brought another important appliance: an ice maker.
Greg and Debia Feldman of Wichita were attending their first-ever Stampede, but they said as longtime Kansas City Chiefs fans they are tailgating veterans.
“The difference is, here we can go to bed at night,” Debia said.
In addition to the impressive kitchen in their 36-foot Cayman XL RV, they had packed an ice maker — a smart move in a place where ice goes for up to $6 a bag.
They also had a small pellet grill, which they said they use to cook brats, hot links and steaks. The advantage of that grill, they said is that it can hold a steady temperature better than some types.
“This morning we cooked biscuits in it,” Debia said.
DIY your drinks
Beer is a given at Country Stampede, but when you want to take a break from Bud Light it’s nice to have some alternatives — most of which included various iterations of alcoholic punch or “jungle juice.”
Zach Hermanek and Alex Roth of Omaha, who were attending for the first time, brought two important drinks along: coffee and moonshine.
The coffee setup included a propane burner and an old-fashined percolator.
“We all drink coffee,” Roth said. “Usually Kahlua and coffee.”
They also had made some applepie- flavored “moonshine.” They said all it took was Everclear, apple cider and a lot of sugar.
“This will mess you up,” Roth said.
Their group also likes to make Bloody Marys, they said, garnished with some of the homemade pickles they had brought.
“We do a lot of homemade stuff,” Hermanek said.
The do-it-yourself spirit also extended to the kitchen. Their friends next door had built a makeshift kitchen using the tailgate of a truck as a counter.
Plan your sides
Sides are sometimes overlooked in campout planning, but hey, people need fruits and vegetables too, right?
Some campers had brought along watermelon, pasta salad, baked beans and corn on the cob to round out their meals.
Tyler and Sasha Smith, who had come up from Florida, said they like to roast vegetables.
“You get some peppers, onions, potatoes, spice ‘em up, a little butter, a little olive oil, put ‘em on the grill and just let them go,” Tyler said.
And don’t forget dessert.
Morgan Simones and Kalani Griggs of Omaha had made cookie bars for a sweet ending to their cookouts.
Simones said she spread homemade chocolate chip cookie dough on the bottom of the pan, added a layer of Oreos, then poured brownie batter on top before baking it.
“They’re a mini heart attack,” she said.