Barbecue enthusiasts enjoyed the smells and tastes at the Polson fairgrounds Saturday, July 29, for Smokin’ on the River.
This year, the event was hosted for the first time by Polson Fairgrounds, Inc.
Organizer Mark Trim said the event, which was formerly known as Smokin’ on the Water, was originally held by the Chamber of Commerce.
After a series of discussions, it was decided the PFI board would take over, change the name to Smokin’ on the River, and move the location to the fairgrounds.
“We got the idea of picking it up because so many barbecue-ers like myself… A bunch of us decided we wanted a barbecue contest here,” Trim said.
Changing the locale to the riverside, he said the biggest obstacle organizers faced was “getting people across the bridge.”
Noting that the new location isn’t immediately downtown, Trim said while people can’t walk from hotels and resorts, people are welcome to attend by boat.
Walking around, trying jerk chicken from a Jamaican stand was Mark Cummings and his son Aaron, both of Polson.
Each year, the duo attends each of Polson’s weekend festivities, Cummings said, adding, “we went to the art festival (in Sacajawea Park) and decided to come here.”
Cummings said that he and his son will plan on attending events at the fairgrounds for the rest of the summer.
There were six contestants and a few vendors, Trim said.
Each contestant was selling food but also handed out little samples from their menus.
The winner, Trim explained, would be the recipient of a smoker worth about $800, which he said was the “People’s Choice Award.”
Each visitor that sampled food voted on who they thought should win. Taking home the victory was Dude’s Place.
Judging the cuisine was a panel of six judges, including Steve Miller of Frenchtown; Jo Durand of Polson; George Brady of Washington State; Grant Holle of Woods Bay; Dee and Chuck Adams of Polson; and Brenda and Mike Peretto of Michigan.
Mike Peretto explained that he and his wife are “master judges” of the Kansas City Barbecue Society. The couple travels around the country, participating in contests.
After hearing about Smokin’ on the River, Peretto said they reached out to organizers and said they would be in town and would like to be involved.
The couple said that the local judges were a “good group” to work with.
Polson City Fire Department staff were on hand, cooking up brisket, chicken, ribs, beans and cookies.
Setting up Friday night at 6 p.m., Fire Chief Clint Cottle said the department decided to enter the contest.
“I’m kind of an avid barbecuer along with (Capt. Kevin Straub), so we teamed up,” Cottle said.
The department has participated in chili cook-offs, but the Smokin’ on the River marked the first time the department competed in a barbecue contest.
Keeping attendees and contestants on schedule was Thunder Skye, a disc jocky from Polson.