Smoke began rolling overnight as participants in the first Blazin' BBQ Festival rolled in and set up for competition.
Organizers hope the festival can become a signature event for the town.
"We’re just going to kick off with the 5K. The 5K and the 10K is raising money for the Michael J. Fox Parkinson’s Disease Foundation," Mike Warrenfells said. Warrenfells is a member of the organization, "Moving Manila Forward."
The organization hopes to attract new residents and employment opportunities for the small Mississippi county town, with a population of 3,300, located on Highway 18.
"They’re coming in. They just started last year trying to build things up and move things in," Sonny Dill, a member of the Manila Fire Department said. The volunteer-based group of about 20 members dedicate their efforts to protecting the local citizens. "It’s great to see new entrepreneurs come in and pour back into the community. As the fire department, we’ve been talking about this for about the last year or two, Diana," Dill said. "And one of the guys who helps run the Manila Moving Forward approached us and said, Hey would you all consider helping do this? We said sure."
The Fire Department Blazin’ BBQ Festival is free to the public on Saturday, April 21 in downtown Manila, located at South Baltimore Street. Judging is based on ribs, chicken and pork butt. All competitors will be responsible for bite-size samples for the Blazin’ Sample punch cards which attendees can buy for $5 at the information booth and use to judge People’s Choice – an additional $100 prize.
"Some of our BBQ competitors will actually be selling. We have professional ones and we have amateurs. Also, we’ll be selling a 5 dollar punch card in the information booth at the four-way stop on Main in Manila," Dill explained. "They can purchase that 5 dollar punch card and they can go around and get different samples from the BBQ contestants and everything. And then by doing that, they’ll be able to turn it back in for a People’s Choice award. That will only take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m."
Live music begins in the morning with local bluegrass artist Joe Chipman. Then at 1:00 p.m. the Lowballers take the stage. At 1:30, the pepper eating contest commences. The Lucky Brothers musicians perform at 3:00 p.m., the NEA Cloggers perform at 4:00 p.m., Mr. Happy performs at 5:00 p.m. and the main act, the Arkansas Brothers, take the stage at 7:30 p.m.
Moving Manila Forward is hopeful the Blazin' BBQ Festival becomes an annual event. The volunteer civic group dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in Manila, Arkansas. In partnership with the University of Arkansas Extension Office, the group is composed of about 80 volunteers, a chairman and a president. The group contains five committees which focus on the group’s mission. The five main focuses of the group are Agriculture, Aviation, Economic Development, Downtown Area and Quality of Life.