National BBQ Competition Comes to Dowagiac

Published on Wednesday, May 24, 2023 in Community

The Dowagiac Summer Festival has a smoking hot new addition for 2023: the Dowagiac BBQ Competition officially sanctioned by the Kansas City BBQ Society (KCBS), the world's largest competitive barbecue organization.

Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce representatives Matt Money and Eileen Crouse say the beefed-up festival will draw interest from across America thanks to its affiliation with KCBS.

"We're excited for people to come to Dowagiac for a festival like this," Crouse says. "Smoking and grilling is a passion for lots of people."


The Dowagiac Summer Festival started as a way for southwest Michigan residents to gather each year and enjoy rides, crafts, and food. Money says previous years have largely featured kid’s rides and vendors, but organizers felt they could take it further by bringing a theme and identity to the festival.

During their search for a way to help the festival branch out, Dowagiac Chamber representatives met James Boatright, a Dowagiac native known for his time on Netflix's American BBQ Showdown. Boatright had recently returned to the town to share his skills.

"After meeting him, we instantly knew we had to host a barbecue event in Dowagiac," Money says.

Boatright had previously worked with KCBS and encouraged the Chamber to reach out to the national organization. A short time later, everything was in place for Dowagiac to host its very first barbecue competition.

The festival runs for two days starting July 14, with the barbecue competition happening July 15. Teams of "backyard," or amateur, cooks will pit either their ribs or their chicken against one another, with a group of volunteer judges (all credentialed) declaring a winner at the day’s end. While not every competitor will sell food, festivalgoers can still look forward to barbecue vendors throughout the festival, as well as the usual carnival rides, kid’s games, additional vendors, and more.

That’s not all – the rest of Dowagiac will be in on the theme too. The Chamber is encouraging all downtown merchants and restaurants to have a barbecue-themed special or display. Ideas include special menus for restaurants, drinks for bars, and even cookbook displays for bookstores.

How big will the competition be?

“The bigger the better,” Money says.

The 2023 Dowagiac Summer Festival is open to the public with free admission to the festival grounds (rides will be ticketed). For more information about the 2023 Dowagiac Summer Festival, as well as other Dowagiac Chamber events and updates, follow them on Facebook at @GreaterDowagiacChamberOfCommerce.

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Anyone interested in volunteering to help with the festival can email Matt Money at

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