Tuesday, January 31, 2023
Jan. 31, 2023

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Where there’s smoke, there’s a new barbecue competition in Kalama


KALAMA — Locals can make the drive down to Kalama this weekend to enjoy the sights, smells and flavors of a new two-day barbecue competition.

Big Smoke in Little Kalama is a contest and free public event taking place in Haydu Park on Saturday and Sunday. This is the first year of what organizer Rose Scattergood hopes will become an annual summer event for the city.

The cookout competition will be part of the circuit of events put on by the Pacific Northwest Barbecue Association, a nonprofit that organizes barbecue competitions across Washington, Oregon and British Columbia.

Scattergood said her father competed in barbecue competitions for years with a group of friends before he retired. As she became more involved with the Kalama Chamber of Commerce last year and began thinking of possible events, the barbecue competitions jumped to mind.

“I’m always looking at fun ways to bring events to our community and this sounded like a fun thing to do,” Scattergood said.

There are 20 teams signed up to take part in Big Smoke in Little Kalama. Each team has to submit their version of four classic barbecue dishes to a panel of judges: chicken, ribs, brisket and pulled pork. The main dishes are due Friday, but there is a bonus competition on Saturday for an “anything bacon” item.

The teams range from talented groups of friends to crews representing restaurants and catering companies. This weekend will include a handful of teams from Cowlitz County and Southwest Washington, including Scattergood’s father.

“There are other teams coming in from Seattle that have competed many times. They follow the circuit and compete as much as they can at different events,” Scattergood said. “It’s a good mix of people.”

One of the first-time teams competing at Big Smoke in Little Kalama is the Meatheads, a group largely made up of employees from PNW Meatheads BBQ in Longview.

Restaurant co-founder Rich Newman said he’s heard great things about competitive barbecue from a friend who’s made it into the national stage. Newman has had a competition-ready trailer and setup for years, but this will be the first time that he’s getting to test it out.

“The smoker we just got, we have been learning for the last three weeks and the food that comes off the thing has been absolutely amazing,” Newman said.

Visitors will be able to go through Haydu Park for free during the event. Barbecue teams will be selling samples of the various dishes they’re making for the competition for between $2 and $4 over the weekend. Some of the larger teams will be selling full meals for visitors.

The Pacific Northwest Barbecue Association offers a $1,900 grand prize for the top team, $1,000 for the second place team and various smaller prizes for winning each of the different categories. The winners of Big Smoke in Little Kalama will qualify to compete in at least two national barbecue competitions.

The cooking is not the only piece of the event happening in Kalama this weekend. Across the park a trading post will be open throughout the day for local vendors to sell their handmade or crafted goods. There will be a beer and wine garden for visitors age 21 and over to come through for a drink. Both days will have live music performances in the park as well.

Scattergood said the event could see hundreds of visitors over the two days, including passengers from the cruise ships docking at the Port of Kalama this weekend. She said Pacific Northwest Barbecue Association has offered to make the contest a staple of the last weekend of June going forward if things go well.

“We’re already calling it the first annual competition,” Scattergood said.

If you go

What: Big Smoke in Little Kalama barbecue competition.

When: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Haydu Park, 253 Kalama River Rd., Kalama.

Cost: Free to visit, $2 to $4 for meat samples, higher costs for full meals.

Info: bigsmokeinlittlekalama.com