By BRADEN LAMMERS
It has become one of the largest draws for the RiverStage and Jeffersonville’s riverfront, and it’s back today and Saturday.
Jeffersonville is hosting its fifth annual Smokin' on the River BBQ, Blues and Brews festival Friday and Saturday at the corner of Spring Street and Riverside Drive along the banks of the Ohio River.
The two-day event will pit — no pun intended — more than 50 professional barbecue teams against one another for a total of $8,500 in prize money. In addition, more than 10 backyard amateur teams will compete for bragging rights.
“It has become the second-largest barbecue festival in the state of Indiana,” said Sara Schutz, director of special events and RiverStage for Jeffersonville’s Parks Department. “[It’s also] one of the biggest events we do down on the RiverStage. This is definitely the most pro teams that we’ve had in the last five years,” she added.
Last year, the event drew about 10,000 people to the banks of the Ohio River during the festival’s two days, and if the forecast holds this year, expectations are that the event could draw as many as 15,000 people.
“It is growing each year,” Schutz said.
The event has also become a sanctioned barbecue contest for the Kansas City Barbecue Society and is a qualifier for the Jack and American Royal barbecue contests. The professional barbecue masters will compete for prizes in four categories: Chicken, ribs, pork and brisket, as well as a competitor who will be named the overall winner.
Smokin’ on the River has evolved since the inaugural event and instead of being able to just sniff the smoking meats, a tasting tent will be available where a number of the professional teams will offer their porky passions to attendees.
Schutz said several barbecue vendors will be on-hand selling food and about 20 teams will be cooking for the tasting tent, which will also be competing to win the people’s choice award.
While area barbecue festivals may not be all that uncommon, Schutz said several things set Smokin’ on the River apart from other barbecue events.
“It’s a free event,” she said. “It’s very hard to find a barbecue festival that you don’t have to pay admission.”
And the music hosted on the RiverStage throughout the weekend has also become a big draw.
“The blues is a huge part of this festival,” Schutz said.
This year a new attraction is the “brew” in the festival’s tasting tent.
Schutz said attendees will be able to get a Smokin’ on the River mug for beer tastings. She said New Albanian Brewing Co., Sam Adams and World Class Beverage, a distribution company, will be offering 4-ounce samples of various beers. She added the option will also be available for those who choose to buy a full beer instead of purchasing the samples.
Another returning attraction will be the pig palooza, in which local businesses purchase a pig to decorate. The pig with the most votes will win prize.