Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Battle Creek series.
Festival season is starting early this year in Battle Creek with a celebration of all things barbecue served up by a combination of established eateries and lesser-known pitmasters, 12 in all, who will be vying for top honors and bragging rights during the inaugural Que the Creek BBQ Festival from 3 to 7 p.m. on Feb. 22 at Kellogg Arena.
Hogzilla BBQ, Grand River Brewery, and the Pasture Wagon are among the brick-and-mortar participants who will be going sauce-to-sauce with up-and-comers such as Sweets & Meats, and VeggZ Café, which will be offering a vegan option. Local judges will award Top BBQ honors during the evening.
The event was created along with leadership from the city’s Small Business Development Office and the Kellogg Arena to give community residents the opportunity to get together and shake off the winter blahs without having to bundle up to stay warm. On the menu will be brisket, pulled pork, smoked chicken wings, sausage, muffaletta sliders, vegan pulled jackfruit, and a lot more choices.
VeggZ Cafe will be at Que the Creek
“It’s winter in Michigan and it’s hard to do outdoor events like Festivus, the weather is always touch and go,” says John Hart, Development manager for the city’s Small Business Development office. “There was a desire to have programming that people want and have it indoors. We don’t really have anything in February that people can rally around. The arena is a big, open space and we’re treating it like an outdoor festival that will be inside.”
In addition to napkin-worthy barbecue, the event will feature craft beers and craft cocktails created by celebrity mixologists and bartenders. There will be music performed by three local bands, including the Fat Animals. There also will be activities for children and adults such as cornhole and axe-throwing.
The food will be served sample or tapas-style to give attendees the opportunity to try all or a few barbecue offerings from the different vendors. There also will be offerings such as desserts provided by The Cheesecake Guy to complement the heartier fare, says Jeremy Andrews, Founder of Penetrator Events, a local event and experience creator.
“This is a big, backyard BBQ festival,” Andrews says. “Each different BBQ vendor will have their own spot and there will be tables going down the middle of the arena.”
Hart says he and organizers of the event had no problem securing vendors interested in showcasing their barbecuing skills. He calls Que the Creek a pilot project that is using space available in the arena and giving local BBQ experts an opportunity to bring their creations to the community.
“We’re creating an environment where people can test their ability with BBQ and people in Battle Creek can celebrate the fact that we have all of these things here,” Hart says.
“We could have gone really deep. There are probably another dozen barbecuers that operate, but they’re not brick-and-mortar. Regionally BBQ is quite popular. We see this as a way of celebrating the great space that we have, activating downtown, engaging resources we already have, and helping small businesses and engaging a local promoter to do it.”
Tickets are $7 for two people if purchased in advance online. Tickets are $5 per person if purchased the day of the event and children 12 and under will get in free of charge. Vendors will be providing BBQ selections ranging in price from $3 to $10.
To purchase tickets or for additional information click here