The Nisqually Valley Barbecue Rally is back and this year, it has a new motto, “Saucier and Smokier Than Ever,” which was coined by Yelm Chamber Executive Director Line Roy and shared ecstatically by Dan and Shelley Nicholson, the dynamic duo behind the July 24 event. The Nicholsons are deeply involved with every aspect of the Rally. Not only are they a main sponsor through their company DZines Creative Solutions and Graphic Designs, but Dan is performing double duty as President of host organization the Yelm Chamber of Commerce.
All signs point to success thus far. “We have more vendors, more people signed up for the amateur barbecue content and more professionals this year,” says Shelley. “We’re also collaborating with the Yelm Farmers Market so their vendors can benefit.” The rally will last from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Yelm City Park.
This is only the second outing for the event, which launched in 2019 but was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19. It will feature both professional and amateur barbecue contests, kids’ activities, live music, a youth and adult pie-eating contest, a beer garden, the chicken dance, free raffles and multiple vendors representing local businesses and community groups. Professional food vendors as well as non-food business vendors. You can host a booth for $250 or $150 for Yelm Chamber members. There is still time to sign up.
For non-professionals, the Amateur Andys & Andies contest is a way to test drive a favorite recipe with a larger audience for a $50 entry fee. Winners will receive prizes that have yet to be announced. The Nicholsons aren’t giving away any details, but it will be barbecue-related. “Last time the winner received a $650 smoker,” says Dan. “We still need to go shopping.” Jennifer Ferguson of Ferguson Insurance Services is overseeing the amateur contest.
Puget Sound Entertainment will be providing bouncy houses and other kids’ activities, while adults can enjoy an expanded beer garden. In 2019, the area included just one of the park’s covered areas but this time it will include both and some extra room besides. “It will be bigger and better,” Dan notes.
As the event approaches, locals should keep an eye out for 5,000 customized DZines coasters the Nicholsons have distributed to local businesses. “Anyone who brings in one of the coasters to the Rally can sign up for a raffle,” Shelley explains. “We’re going to have a huge raffle basket of items donated by local businesses, including gift cards. So many businesses have donated.”
To get a coaster, it’s not enough to simply walk into a company and walk out, she notes. “You need to visit our local bars and restaurants and support them, because that’s important to us, too,” says Shelley. “Supporting our business community is what the chamber is about.”
The relationship is reciprocal. In its first year, the Nisqually Valley Barbecue Rally initially struggled to attract sponsors because it was an unknown quantity. This year, there has been no such issue. “The outpouring of support has been awesome,” says Shelley. “In 2019 we had to reach out to a lot of people but this year, many people have been reaching out to us. Some of our top supporters are, Kayo Radio station, Twin Star Credit Union and ThurstonTalk”
On the Steele Clayton State Farm & Rocket Mortgage stage throughout the day, different groups will provide entertainment. Some, like Prohibition Band, a modern, classic and southern rock, outlaw country and rockabilly cover band based in Chehalis, are musical. Others, such as Yelm’s Wings Aerial Acrobats, offer athletic and artistic performances. The pie-eating contest is also a popular attraction.
One significant change this year: the Rally has synchronized hours with the Yelm Farmers Market to maximize the benefit for both groups. The Rally is starting earlier than last time and the market is closing later. “We want the events to complement each other,” says Shelley. “We’re not in competition. It’s all for the community.”
Yelm Farmers Market Manager Jon Jamieson agrees. “The Rally will be helpful for the market because it brings in a diverse crowd,” he says. “There’s an opportunity for people who have never been to the Market to see how we operate. It’s been great working with everyone involved in the Rally because they’re all friendly and they all love the Yelm community. It’s a great pairing.”
To pull off such an event requires many moving parts to come together as well as an enthusiastic group of volunteers. The volunteer in charge of facilities also works for the City of Yelm, which is allowing the group to use the park and Yelm Community Center. “Our committee is amazing,” says Shelley. “Everyone works hard and is passionate about this. They want it to be a success and it will be.”
Learn more by visiting the Nisqually Valley Barbecue Rally website.