DECATUR — The smell of barbecue will fill Decatur’s downtown area this weekend.
The Decatur Smokin’ BBQ Festival will host the third amateur competition Friday, Sept. 13, and Saturday, Sept. 14, in Decatur's Downtown Central Park. The amateur barbecue competition will be judged by official Kansas City Barbecue judges. Visitors can attend the festival for free.
Nearly 20 competitors will be vying for the prize money. The winning purse equals $3,500 separated in three categories: chicken, ribs and pulled pork.
According to director LaVell Peete, the event has grown since it was created two years ago. “They come from all over, from down in Southern Illinois to Indiana and Ohio,” he said. “That is unusual, since it is a backyard competition.”
Although the food is the highlight of the weekend, the festival will offer other activities and vendors, such as a children’s area, live blues entertainment and craft beer. Kenney’s Ace Hardware will be providing grill demonstrations. “They will have all kinds of grills on Saturday,” Peete said.
Food vendors will be available for visitors to purchase food, which includes barbecue menus as well as regular fair food.
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However, the competitors cannot give away or sell their food. “You can talk to them or have a beer with them,” said Jarrod Cox, Decatur Smokin’ BBQ Festival board secretary. “You just can’t taste the food.”
Although this year marks the third year for the festival, this is Peete’s first year to include his own cooking as a food vendor.
“This will be the debut of LP’s Barbecue Pit,” he said. “If I can be a founder and producer of a barbecue festival, why not go for it?”
His menu will be simple, which will include pulled pork, nachos, polish sausages and other items. “My intention is to do it full time,” Peete said.
The barbecue festival was created to honor Peete’s mother, Selma (Knox) Peete, who passed away in June 2016. Peete’s mother was known for her cooking. “And cooking was a big part of my family,” Peete said remembering his family traditions. “That was the time I could spend one-on-one time with my mother. She gave the best advice, hanging out over a pot on the stove.”
Along with her cooking, Selma Peete was known for her generosity, which she passed on to her son. According to Peete, the Decatur Smokin’ BBQ Festival is an example of that characteristic.
“We are finding a way to give back to the community,” he said. “And our community looks forward to it.”