BBQ contest expanding this year

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By Shannon Watkins

The Smoke on the Mountain, Virginia’s state BBQ championship, has received more space in downtown Galax for this weekend’s event after city council voted to allow an expansion at Monday night’s meeting.

Owing to its growing number of contestants, Smoke on the Mountain Site Director Ron Passmore asked the City of Galax to afford the festival more space in the downtown area.

At the meeting, City Manager Keith Barker told council members that the contest organizers had asked to use the lower parking lot behind the Visitor’s Center — across Grayson Street from the Rex Theater and below the city’s municipal lot behind Social Services.

The event takes up the streets and parking lots of several blocks of Main and Grayson streets already, but Barker noted that there are more than 35 competitors in this year’s contest — nearly double the amount, around 20, of contestants in 2013.

The contest, now in its 10th year, has always been a Memphis BBQ Association-sponsored event. Last year, it added a Kansas City BBQ Society contest and this year expanded to a World Food Contest qualifying event. All of this is in addition to the grand champion taking home the state title.

This growing prestige in the national competitive barbecue circuit has caused interest to heat up.

The expansion means the city would have to close off East Grayson Street at the Carroll Street intersection instead of at Rex Lane, giving the event one more block of space.

Barker noted that City Electrician Randy Butcher has already been consulted about ensuring electrical power for the area.

As for any conflict with Friday night’s weekly Blue Ridge Backroads program at the Rex Theater, Barker said, “We don’t think that’ll be a problem. We think we can still accommodate the band that’ll be playing that night.”

The motion passed with all voting in favor except for council member Bill Webb, who was absent.