The countdown to the 7th annual Smoke on the Square has begun.
As the largest fundraiser for Community Center of Hope, Inc., the event is anticipated to bring nearly 2,000 people to town, organizers say.
Proceeds from the two-day event benefit the Center's food pantry and child care services, says Chelsea Kendall, executive director of the Community Center of Hope, Inc.
"We have had an increase in teams every year from 2014 on," Kendall says. "This year we will cap it at 30. It will be the biggest and most we have had on the square."
Last year the competition raised close to $10,000 for the Center, Kendall says.
"For us it is beneficial because it helps with operating costs and to do more for our summer camp kids," she says. "We are able to serve more in the food pantry as well."
The competition will feature nearly 30 teams who will be set up on three sides of the square.
"Everyone cooks meat in a different way," Kendall says. "Some use high end smokers and there is one who uses clay pots. It is interesting to see."
Teams will compete to for the top three places in four categories: chicken, pork, ribs, and brisket. Each team's BBQ will be ranked on appearance, taste, and tenderness by 25 judges, Kendall says.
The teams will be competing for prize money and bragging rights, Kendall says.
The event also features a People's Choice Award, which will be held at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Kendall says.
"We provide a pork shoulder for each team," she says. "They do not get any money out of it, but the people can taste test each team. It is a blind entry. There are 12-15 servings on each tray so you can buy one tray for $5 or 2 for $10."
But there's more than just BBQ to enjoy.
Nearly one dozen or more vendors will have booths set up offering a variety of items from home gadgets, snow cones for a cause, jewelry and other items, Kendall says.
The Night Owl Country Band performs at 5 p.m. Friday and the Hawcreek Experience will take the stage at 3 p.m. Saturday. Both performances will be held at the bandstand, Kendall says.
Jeff Yarnell, president of the Community Center board, says the 7-year-old event has grown well beyond his expectations.
"There are people who follow BBQ competitions," he says. "As much research as I have done, we are the biggest stand-alone backyard BBQ competition in the state that is not sanctioned by a professional event.
In addition to teams from throughout Indiana, this year's event welcomes teams from California, Ohio and Illinois, he says.
"The event gives people a chance to come in and see the community," Kendall says. "There are businesses that will be open, so they can see those too. It just adds a little bit of tourism."
Yarnell says this weekend more records will be set.
"If the weather holds out, we will break all kinds of records," he says.