BBQ, Bikes and Blues Festival

In this Missourian file photo, Rachel Tobben, left, and Trini Haddox, both volunteers, toast barbecue samples in celebration of the 11th annual WashMO BBQ, Bikes & Blues Festival April 27, 2019. This year’s BBQ & Bluesfest will run from April 23 through April 25 at the Washington Farmers’ Market.

The WashMo BBQ & Bluesfest, a popular downtown event that brings food and live entertainment to the community each year, will return for its 12th installment April 23-25.

The festival, which regularly draws more than 10,000 people over its three days, is the community’s first large-scale event of the year.

“I think people are itching to get out and to see other people. This is a great chance for people from outside Washington to come and explore our beautiful downtown and visit our many downtown businesses that will be open all weekend long,” said Tyler King, executive director of Downtown Washington Inc., the main organizer of the event. He said steps have been taken to help ensure social distancing among attendees, including moving the barbecue judging to the Washington Farmers’ Market and adding additional handwashing and hand-sanitizing stations throughout the festival area.

“I’d just encourage everyone to please be smart, be safe, and do your part to follow the advice of the CDC and other public health officials,” King said. He added that as vaccination numbers continue to rise, he believes more people will be willing to venture out.

“I think we are all excited to bring a little normalcy back after last year,” King said.

Last year, Downtown Washington was forced to cancel the event, which was then known as the BBQ, Bikes and Blues festival, due to the pandemic. Initially scheduled for April, organizers pushed it back to June before ultimately making the decision to cancel it.

According to Downtown Washington Event and Promotion Specialist Cassidy Lowery, organizers are planning for “larger than normal crowds” this year.

Lowery said approximately 40 barbecue teams are registered to compete in the Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned competition. There are three local teams in the competition, including Shake ’N Bake BBQ, Oink-A-Doodle-Moo and RayGene Smokers BBQ.

“The rest of the teams are all traveling from outside of the area and from surrounding states,” Lowery said.

The teams will go head-to-head, barbecuing beef brisket, ribs, chicken and pork butt, competing for the title of Grand Champion, various trophies, ribbons and cash prizes.

An additional contest, which is sponsored by Downtown Washington, will be held on Friday, April 23. This contest will ask contestants to make a meat dish with macaroni and cheese from anything but beef brisket, ribs, chicken and pork butt.

In addition to the barbecue teams, Lowery said an additional 15 food and drink vendors also will be at the festival.

“This is definitely an event to show up hungry to. There will be plenty of really great food,” Lowery said.

Downtown Washington Inc. also is hosting a BBQ, Bacon and Bourbon Tasting special event during the festival on April 25 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.. Tickets to this tasting are limited to 150 people.

The businesses participating in the tasting include Blues Hog, Sugarfire Smoke House, Frick’s Quality Meats, Samuel Berton Distillery and Fernweh Distillery. Tickets to the tasting can be purchased at Downtown Washington Inc.’s office, 123 Lafayette St., or online at downtownwashmo.org.

Attendees at this year’s festival also will hear several blues genre musicians.

Performing on Friday night are Brian Curran and Ivas John Band with The Washingtons. The Kingdom Brothers and Paul Cockrum will perform on Saturday. The BagLunch Blues Band will perform on Sunday to end the festival.

In addition, Grace’s Place will be hosting its fifth annual Vintage and Handmade Market during the festival, according to Grace’s Place Executive Director Amanda Jones.

“There will be diverse vendors with high quality products,” Jones said of this year’s market. There are 25 vendors currently registered, but additional registrations are being accepted until the week of April 12.

All proceeds from vendor registration are used by Grace’s Place to help keep services free for families, Jones said.