April 4, 2018 at 5:30 p.m.

BBQ event to make Town Square smoky for extra day starting Friday

The sixth annual Smoke on the Square is this weekend, but for the first time, the event will include a Friday slate of food, music and entertainment.

The festival will begin Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. and continue Saturday from 11 a.m. until the food is sold out. Proceeds from the event will benefit Hope Community Center.

Jeff Yarnell, organizer for the event, said this will be the biggest event yet, with 25 teams already confirmed for Saturday's contest and several more possible. Because of the configuration of the Town Square, there are only room for 30 teams.

One of the reasons for the growing entrants is the stability of the competition, Yarnell said. The same judges have been in place since the start, making for a consistency in the competition.

"That way, it gives the team a great deal of confidence that things are going good and smooth and we have got professionals taking care of things," Yarnell said. "If we don't have the teams happy, we don't have a competition."

While not a sanctioned competitive barbecue event, Yarnell said he is part of organizing a new network of smaller backyard barbecue competitions in southern Indiana, of which the Hope event is the largest. Based on his research, he said most small competitions flame out before they get to Hope's level.

"There is no other one in Indiana that gets 25 teams to a backyard, so we are really proud of that," Yarnell said.

An award ceremony will be held at about 6 p.m. Saturday and there will be $1,100 given away in cash and there will be three trophies.

One of the highlights is the People's Choice Award tasting, which begins at 3 p.m. on Saturday. Although the teams cooking around the square during the event are competing for prizes, there is no way for the general public to sample those dishes outside of the People's Choice Award. For $6, you will be able to sample and vote on the contestants' creations.

"There will be two lines this year because we have 25 teams, we will have 13 (teams) in one line and 12 in the other," Yarnell said. "And for six bucks you can go through one line and if you are done, if there is still available, you can go through two lines. People will vote and two winners will get two trophies."

Three bands are scheduled to play the event, with other music provided by Indiana Country 101.5 WKKG, which is also the largest sponsor for the event. The Night Owl Country Band will perform starting at 5:30 p.m. Friday and on Saturday, Dusty Road Southern Country Rock Band will play from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and ROTN 4 Reggae band will perform from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Kelsey James, morning show host for WKKG, talked about the station's involvement with the event.

"WKKG looks forward to Smoke on the Square every year!" James said. "It's an awesome community event and great to work with amazing people like Jeff Yarnell. We're also excited to compete again this year. Over Memorial Day weekend one of our teammates, Joe Hemmelgarn, split a pork butt into four and tried different recipes for his family to taste test. We want to bring that People's Choice Award home with us. Come out and support the WKKG team, Rub Me Tender Smoke Me Sweet, and support the Community Center of Hope!"

Yarnell said he is also looking forward to the new power set up on the Town Square. In previous years, the competition has blown breakers several times. But this year there will be about three times as much power as needed, he estimated. He said that will come particularly in handy as some of the larger teams will be bringing larger gear that requires electrical hookups.

"They are starting to realize how serious we are and they are starting to bring big vending trailers with air conditioners and people are starting to bring campers that plug in, so it is going to get big," Yarnell said.

There are also 11 vendor booths slated for the event and carnival rides will be available for young children at the empty lot on the north side of the square, and a bounce house.[[In-content Ad]]