Come hungry and don’t wear white, could be two pieces of advice for anyone interested in attending the eighth annual South Sound BBQ Festival, brought to you by the Lacey South Sound Chamber on Saturday, July 7, at Huntamer Park.

This wildly popular event takes place from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and hosts an array of food and retail vendors to showcase amazing local businesses in the South Sound area.

There will be live music, a rock climbing wall, kids activities, an adults-only beer and wine garden as well as the much anticipated barbecue cook-off and chicken wing eating contest. Admission to the festival is completely free with food and drinks for purchase.

Lacey BBQ Festival
Attendance continues to grow at this free community event and is a great way for local businesses to get exposure. Photo courtesy: Lacey South Sound Chamber

Lacey South Sound Chamber Executive Director, Blaine Land, says the South Sound BBQ Festival is one of the largest community events in the summer.

“If you are a business interested in becoming a vendor, this is a great opportunity to promote your business at this local event that draws in thousands of Thurston County residents,” Land says. “The Chamber will be accepting new vendor applications until the beginning of June, but spots fill up fast so don’t wait!”

For more information about the costs associated as a vendor, check out the Chamber’s website, or contact the Chamber office by calling 360-491-4141.

This is the second year the Lacey South Sound Chamber has collaborated with the Pacific Northwest Barbecue Association (PNWBA) to put on the BBQ Cook-Off. According to their website, the PNWBA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion and enjoyment of barbecue in the Northwest.

Chris Lester
The Tailgate BBQ is always a festival favorite. Owner Chris Lester has been a participating food vendor for the past six years at the South Sound BBQ Festival. Photo courtesy: Chris Lester

This thrilling event puts local barbecue connoisseurs and amateurs alike to the ultimate test as they compete for the best barbecue dish. Patrons can come and try mouthwatering samples from the contestants and a panel of PNWBA judges will select the winner by the end of the day. Contest winners are qualified to be invited to cook at national and world championship events.

ACU (America’s Credit Union) will also host the all-ages chicken wing eating contest, which always draws huge crowds.

Food vendors who wish to sign up are asked to have some sort of barbecue-related food item for sale and those who want to compete in the famed BBQ Cook Off can submit an application here.

Chris Lester, owner of The Tailgate BBQ in Tumwater, has been on the festival committee since its inception, but it wasn’t until after Lester started his barbecue business almost six years ago that he became a participating food vendor at the South Sound Chamber BBQ Festival.

Lester says about 30 hours of work goes into preparing for the big day, from buying the meat, to prepping it, to cooking it overnight and selling it the next day. And while he doesn’t mind a friendly competition, Lester says he participates in the event for the love of food.

Chris Lester Trophy
Chris Lester, owner of The Tailgate BBQ, wins the People’s Choice Award at the 2016 South Sound BBQ Festival. Photo courtesy: Lacey South Sound Chamber

“It’s not about the competition for me, it’s more an opportunity to be out there with the public and provide some great barbecue,” Lester says. “I do it because I love to cook and I’m just grateful people enjoy eating my food.”

Attendance only continues to grow at this free event, with an estimated 15,000 people showing up to support local businesses and share great food. Lester says the exposure of an event like the South Sound BBQ Festival has more than paid off for his business.

“It’s been highly beneficial for me to get the exposure,” he says. “I’ve met people who I ended up working for on different occasions like weddings and graduations just because they tried my food here and loved it. If I had to choose one barbeque event for my company to do, hands down it’d be this one.”

So whether your reasons are to satisfy that summer barbecue craving or you’re just looking for an event the entire family can enjoy, mark your calendars for July 7 and head down to Lacey – just don’t forget to come early!

You can reach the Lacey South Sound Chamber by visiting their website, Facebook page, event page or by calling 360-491-4141.

Stay up to date with The Tailgate BBQ by visiting their Facebook page or by calling 360-790-6003.