BBQ festival gets hotter every year

The Smoke On The Water BBQ Festival will once again take over Waterfront Park for the fourth consecutive year on Fathers’ Day, June 20.

The Kelowna Jaycees launched the inaugural event in 2007 and it attracted about 400 spectators and a half dozen competitors. 2008 saw the event double in size with more than 800 spectators joining in the fun on the beach with 14 teams competing for the prize money. Finally, in 2009 the event exploded with an estimated attendance of about 5,000 spectators, and 20 teams competing for glory.

The fourth edition of Smoke On The Water is expected to continue this upward trajectory with attendance projections running up to 10,000 spectators.

This year the BBQ competition already has 17 registered teams and is expected to have more than 25 when the dust (or charcoal) settles on June 20, which means the winner will get an automatic berth in the World Championships in Kansas City. Smoke On the Water will also feature the first ever “Tabasco Restaurant Cookoff” to determine which local restaurant can best harness their creativity to deliver the Okanagan’s best Tabasco-themed dish.

“It’s absolutely incredible how the efforts of our volunteers have translated into this exponential growth," says Kelowna Jaycees President Colin Ashton. "I don’t know if there is another event that’s gone from 400 attendees in year one to 5,000 in year three. It blows my mind.”

Event organizer Alex Miller agrees, citing another measurement for the success of the event. “In year one we were begging anyone we knew for sponsorship money to help get this event off the ground. Now sponsors are coming to us and asking how they can get involved. We’ve even attracted national brands like Costco and Tabasco.”

Smoke On The Water centres around a “Pro BBQ” competition with teams from Western Canada and the US competing for $4,000 in prize money and bragging rights. The event attracts families from all over the Okanagan because it also includes a Kidzone, BBQ Marketplace, Beach Beer Garden, Tabasco Restaurant Cookoff, Amateur Rib Competition, and Entertainment Stage.

The influx of BBQ enthusiasts does not go unnoticed. “The Downtown Kelowna Association is pleased to see the return of the annual Smoke on the Water BBQ contest to Downtown again in 2010,” says John Perrott, Executive Director, adding “this is another homegrown event which has added to our summer event calendar providing people another great reason to spend the day downtown.”

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