by Ronda Payne/Special to the Langley Advance
The sights, sounds, and most importantly the smells of barbecue are coming back to Langley this weekend as the 32nd annual Canadian Festival of Chili and BBQ move temporarily to KPU’s parking lot on May 4 and 5.
With more than 30 barbecue teams signed up and other independent teams participating in chili and side events, visitors will have a lot to take in from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days, said competitor and co-producer Dave McKay.
McKay has been enveloped in barbecue since 1994, when he was working in television and did a story on the event – which then was held in New Westminster.
He met the event’s founder, David Veljacic and his wife Pat – who believed in keeping team entry fees low and encouraging donations to the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund for The Young Burn Survivors Summer Camp.
It’s something McKay says is still important to the event.
“It’s the oldest and largest [BBQ competition] in Canada and the Pacific Northwest,” he explained.
“A five dollar minimum donation [to get on site, goes] to the BC Fire Fighter’s Burn Fund. It costs in the neighbourhood of $5,000 a day to go to that camp. We have donated $50,000 to date for the fund, so we’ve sent a lot of kids to camp.”
The year after he met Veljacic – a captain with the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service – McKay started competing.
When the Veljacics passed away, others like McKay knew how important it was to continue their legacy. In fact, that’s why McKay takes on co-producing the event, which he describes as being like “lassoing water.”
“It’s in memory of the founder of the festival,” he said.
“He was a competition barbecuer before it was cool and he started this. I was so impressed with the people and the smells and the taste that I started competing. They had the lowest entry fees of any [barbecue] contest and we’ve kept it that way. We do it to support those young burn survivors.”
They also have a lot of fun and challenge themselves as competitor Steve Waldron with the Fat Wally’s Firehouse BBQ team said.
Is there more to this story?
“I’ve been competing for nine years,” Waldron said.
“It’s fun to hang out with all these people. We see each other every summer. Even though you’re competing against each other, you’re really competing against yourselves.”
Waldron’s team, which hails from Langley and Surrey, will participate in all the main barbecue events on Sunday: ribs, chicken, brisket and pork. They will also participate in the Saturday chili events and the surprise meat.
“Although it’s not a surprise, we know we’re getting bison ribs,” he said. “That’s why I like the Langley one. There’s so much going on. It’s one of our favourites.”
Having worked in the airline industry, Waldron travelled a fair amount and experienced real southern barbecue, that’s what got him involved in competing.
“The food is excellent. It’s a great way to sample real barbecue,” he noted. “It’s nice to give food away and see people’s reactions to it, what they think. Anyone with an interest in barbecuing should attend for fun.”
Another of the co-producers, Rob Rabby is a firefighter with the Langley City Fire Rescue. Langley City firefighters will greet visitors, collect donations, provide wristbands and a bowl of chili on Saturday or a pulled pork sandwich on Sunday.
There will be limited sampling of the teams’ creations – while supplies last and food trucks will be on site. Look for cooking demonstrations, vendors, and growler beer sales from KPU’s Brew Lab near the entrance.
The event will be back at Cascades Casino next year, when renovations are complete as McKay notes they are long-term event supporters.
This year, it’s at KPU’s lot L3 behind the Best Western hotel at the northeast corner of the campus. Parking in lot L2 will be free.