|Cooking teams set up the night before in the festival grounds of Maggie Valley|
In July the maximum temperature is 82 degrees. At night the thermometer reading usually drops below 60, so cool temperatures in the evenings also offset the daily highs. In addition, the risk of rain is low. July is the driest month in the summer with only 3.7 inches of rain. With these conditions, the organizers of Smokin’ in the Valley, which proclaims itself as the Western North Carolina BBQ championship, couldn’t ask for more favorable conditions.
|Smokin' in the Valley proclaims the Western N.C. BBQ Champion.|
Smokin’ in the Valley is an event that local residents look forward to attending each year, even though Maggie Valley has a full summer schedule of exceptional events that annually draws repeat visitors. The motels, lodges, and inns fill up quickly, and I had to call several places before I found one with a room available (fortunately a reservation had just been cancelled).
|Food vendors do a brisk business along the path to the music stage.|
|The reward for standing in line to vote in the People's Choice category is |
a tray of tasty samples prepared by cooking teams.
The event is held on the festival grounds (where parking is easy) of Maggie Valley next to charming Jonathan Creek, a regular destination for trout fishing because it is part of the Mountain Heritage Trout Waters Program. When Smokin’ in the Valley occurs, the grounds become a singular destination to browse through mountain arts and crafts and enjoy food from vendors (my favorites were cornbread salad and root beer float) that complement the barbecue sold in the People’s Choice contest. People arrive early and linger for hours to enjoy the music.
|Mountain music performs throughout the day on the festival grounds.|
|The judges tent is quiet before noon when the first meats arrive.|
|Backyard grillers can buy bags of wood -- pecan, hickory, cherry, and apple -- in the arts and crafts area.|
A valley in the mountains is an excellent place to hold a barbecue festival in the summer. The trophies and prize money that Smokin’ in the Valley offers contestants is only part of the attraction for competing in this event.
|Trophies for the reserve (left) and grand champions await the winners.|