Festival sizzles on cool day

Colton Davies

Temperatures around B.C. are below seasonal this weekend but, in Keremeos, you could say it was hotter than usual.

The village hosted the 17th annual "Similkameen Sizzle" at Memorial Park, which is Canada's only hot pepper festival.

"It does bring a lot of people in, and because it's a free community event it brings the whole community together," festival chair Joan Bauman said.

At the festival there were vendors selling and sampling pepper-related items and displaying all sorts of other goods. Some noteworthy activities were blind judging of pepper jelly and, the main event, the hot pepper eating contest.

The contest itself is well known around the province — festival chair Joan Bauman said some taking part this year came from as far as Revelstoke and Vancouver.

Patty Giles, a hot pepper vendor from Kelowna, was at the festival for the second straight year. She said the event is a unique setting to show off her produce.

"Everything's handmade. I've been canning for 40 years so a long time. But I love doing it, and I love being around the people," Giles said. "I had a great time here last year and that's why I came back."

Bauman estimated between 1,000 and 1,500 people attended the festival between Friday night and early Saturday evening, which is right on par with recent years.

It’s an impressive turnout for a community that has a population below 2,000 people.

"It's sort of ringing in the fall, at the same time summer is closing down so everybody likes to get out," Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer said, who took part in blind judging hot chilli at the festival.

"I think the Similkameen is well known for having the highest concentration of organic products, not just vegetables like peppers but also with fruit... I think we're becoming more and more a little bit of a hot spot... When I walk around Memorial Park and talk to people, they're really just from all over Canada.

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