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New BBQ Festival Coming To Downtown Evansville

Isaiah Seibert

A national barbecue organization will hold a cooking contest in Evansville as part of the first-ever Evansville BBQ Festival. The winner will have a shot to enter some of the country’s biggest barbeque competitions.

The festival is planned for August 16 and 17 at the corner of 5th St. and Walnut St. downtown.

Organizers expect around two dozen teams to compete for a $5,000 purse in a competition sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society. Team check-in takes place Friday night, with the judging and awards ceremony occuring the following day.

The grand champion will be eligible for entry into two invitation-only barbeque competitions: the Jack Daniels Championship in Lynchburg, Tennessee, and the American Royal in Kansas City, Missouri. 

In addition to the contest, there will also be events for the public.

Credit Isaiah Seibert / WNIN
Jim Johnson shows off his barbecue at Wednesday's press conference. He'll prepare a sampling dinner for the festival's VIP event.

A VIP event for guests 21 and over will feature two live music bands. Dinner will be prepared by Jim Johnson, an Evansville resident who travels the world as an international trainer with the Kansas City Barbecue Society. He's also won the Grand Champion title multiple times.

Saturday’s festivities are free and open to public. They’ll include more live music, food trucks, and a car show. Organizers are also asking for donations of non-perishable food to benefit Aurora and Tri-State Food Bank.

Evansville tourism officials aren't sure how many people will attend so Evansville Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Joe Taylor says they can't estimate the economic impact.

"If I look out across the parking lot and people are having a good time and it's busy, I'll say that's a success," he says.

Taylor says the BBQ Festival borrows some elements from Evansville HydroFest but isn't a replacement for the event, which the Courier and Press reported was abruptly cancelled earlier this year.

This year's BBQ Fest will be the first, but Taylor hopes it won't be the last. 

"We already have an above-average number of teams participating in the competion in our first year so that bodes well," he says. 

More information and tickets to Friday night’s event are available at EvansvilleBBQFest.com.