Family Adventures · Iowa Food · Potluck Crashing · South Central Iowa

Potluck Crashing: Clear Creek BBQ CookOff-The Ultimate Church Supper

When these church bells ring, locals come flocking in….For award winning BBQ!

Harper, IA: Keokuk County

We get invited to a lot of places and we make an honest to goodness attempt to visit as many areas we can here on The Iowa Gallivant. When someone calls and asks if I’d like to judge a BBQ cook-off I usually come running at full speed leaving dust behind me like in the Bugs Bunny cartoons. Near the town of Harper is one of the most beautiful rural churches in Iowa and it hosts a very tasty annual meeting of local smoke masters.

Picture from Clear Creek BBQ Cookoff Facebook page.

Two words that will always perk me up no matter where I’m at or what I’m doing…..”Church Supper”! I don’t care what the religious/non religious status is of anyone reading this because I’m here to tell you that one may want to keep their eyes open to some of these in communities nearby because they can show anyone just how unbelievable the food can be as these places. Sts. Peter and Paul in Harper goes next level on the house of worship tradition with the Clear Creek BBQ Cookoff!


It takes a long time to make great BBQ and the contestants here have it down pat. Whether you have the traditional giant sized smoker that could feed you average Marine Corps battalion, the weekend warrior smoker that sits proudly in your backyard, or the repurposed antique fridge, all are welcome to compete and party all day long here. It’s going to be hours before supper time so lets tour the grounds!


Sts. Peter and Paul is no longer an operating church in local catholic diocese, but the folks who live around here and grew up attending this beautiful church will not let it see go to waste or be demolished. Folks here have poured money into the upkeep and countless volunteered labor hours so we can all enjoy this Sts. Peter and Paul for generations to come. It still serves as an important landmark for events like this, fundraisers, weddings and parties in the basement. The stain glass windows have been restored and they shine breathtaking sunlight on to the 120 year old rows of pews.


The time came to start judging the “Q” and none of us had to be told twice. Behind me were the tables of pork ribs and brisket judges. I was at the smoked chicken table and enjoyed the hard work that poured into this meal from all levels. And look at that proud church hall! Something tells me this historic venue has hosted countless suppers, coffee breaks and potlucks. A giant bowl of coleslaw and a huge banquet table jam packed with homemade desserts was a familiar sight. As you can see, the community pulls together to keep this event going and St. Peter and Paul relevant. You don’t have to worship here to be welcomed and offered a plate of some of the most memorable food you’ll have in the area. Awards were given out and gratefully accepted. However, the common theme to all those participating was just to have a good time with old friends and this dorky guy from the Iowa Gallivant. That mission was accomplished!


Those happy faces taking happy bites of slow smoked BBQ is all I need to post to describe our meal. The community came out in full force to dive into what was perfected on this day and no one walked away hungry. This day turned out to be an experience that I wish more would participate in. Locate a church hall and community center near you no matter the size of the town because they just might show you how you can eat local, support the community, meet entrepreneurs and supply you with a home cooked and more than affordable meal that could be as special and tasty as the one we had in Harper. This one was just as historic as the church itself. You all out did yourselves, here in Harper, and showed us again why we love rural Iowa so much.

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