By Travis Sloat
Zach Lee said he couldn’t wait to drive into downtown Fort Gibson on Saturday just for the smell of barbecue.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he said, “I’m excited to taste the barbecue as well. This is an awesome event; we try to come out every year.”
Lee is one of the many who are ready to experience the fourth annual Smokin’ the Fort BBQ and Bluegrass Festival today and Saturday.
The event draws locals and guests from all over, all seeking the taste of good smoked barbecue and the pleasant sounds of live down-home, bluegrass music by local bands.
Lee said he couldn’t think of a better place for the festival.
“I’ve always loved this town,” he said. “It’s a great, family fun event in a great, family fun town. We look forward to it every year.”
Gary Perkins, the executive director for the Fort Gibson Chamber of Commerce, said Gov. Mary Fallin had proclaimed Saturday as “Smokin’ the Fort Day.”
Tonight will be the “Anything Goes” portion of the cooking competition, as well as the “Kids-Cue” cooking competition. There will be a street dance contest, with a DJ, and an opportunity to meet the cooks for Saturday’s competition.
Saturday is the day of the taste testing. Festival-goers can purchase a taste testing kit for $5, which includes a drink and all the barbecue they can taste. Several bluegrass bands will perform during the competition, including The Mayer Family, The Park Family and SpringStreet.
Mayor Steven Hill said he is glad the festival is put on each year.
“It’s an excellent event for the town,” he said. “It increases revenues and brings a lot of visitors to Fort Gibson and introduces them to our wonderful town. It seems to be a quality event, and people who have come before always look forward to returning.”
The competition is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, with more than $7,000 in cash and prizes to be presented. The event will also have other food vendors, and commemorative T-shirts will be available for sale.