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Centralia BBQ contest cancelled

Posted on Friday, September 25, 2020 at 6:54 am

Another popular Centralia tradition has fallen victim to COVID-19 cautions.

The 11-year-old Centralia Barbecue Contest, started and maintained by the Centralia Chamber of Commerce and a host of volunteers has been cancelled for this  year.

Clint Eastin and Dave Lewis of the Muddy River Boys BBQ team pause for a photo as they set up for the annual Anchor City Cook-off.

Clint Eastin and Dave Lewis of the Muddy River Boys BBQ team pause for a photo as they set up for the annual Anchor City Cook-off. Fireside Guard File photo.Another popular Centralia tradition has fallen victim to COVID-19 cautions.

 

The 11-year-old Centralia Barbecue Contest, started and maintained by the Centralia Chamber of Commerce and a host of volunteers, has been cancelled for this year.

Organizers said though, they plan to be back in 2021.

The decision was made Tuesday night, September 22, at a Centralia Chamber of Commerce board of directors meeting.

Chamber Director Ginny Zoellers issued a statement the next day.

“After putting together the operational plans and working with the health department the board made the difficult decision to postpone both events until 2021.

Under the current health order, we knew changes and accommodations would need to be made to both events.  The changes needed were just more than we could accommodate and continue to have quality events.”

Zoellers said there were three areas of change, which if the chamber had made, or been able to make, would not have allowed them to host type of contest they wanted.

• Spacing between the competitors’ areas, “There would not be enough room if we separated their cooking operations to the degree county health wanted.”

under the current health order, we knew changes and accommodations would need to be made to both events.  The changes needed were just more than we could accommodate and continue to have quality events.”

Zoellers said there were three areas of change, which if the chamber had made, or been able to make, would not have allowed them to host type of contest they wanted.

• Spacing between the competitors’ areas, “There would not be enough room if we separated their cooking operations to the degree county health wanted.”

• Closing the event off to the public. “They wanted the square completely closed off to the public where they could not mingle with the competitors.”

• Manpower “We just do not have enough people to police social distancing the way they wanted… They also wanted more space for the car show.”

Zoellers said between the car show, which would have been held the day after the BBQ contest, and the contest, the chamber will lose approximately $3,000 in revenue and sees nothing in the immediate future to replace it.

“But that is nothing compared to what we lost by having to cancel the Anchor Festival. We are all hoping for a really prosperous 2021.” she said.

There is some disappointment regarding the loss of this year’s BBQ contest. Centralia Mayor Chris Cox said the BBQ and car show…

Centralia Mayor Chris Cox said the BBQ and car show were both great opportunities to showcase Centralia and bring addition customers to the city’s downtown businesses.

“It is tragic,” he said of the cancellation. “It is a matter of interpretation. It boils down to interpretation of the state and county’s rules. Unfortunately, you are going to have people, no matter how well-planned an event is, who will call in and complain. Nobody is forced to go to the BBQ contest or the car show.”

He said the situation illustrates a bigger picture.

“The bigger picture is that our elected officials, the county commission, have no control over our county health department,” Cox said. “Our elected county officials have no direct control or input in how county health makes its decisions. Especially when the decide to impose rules which are stronger than the state’s.”

He said he understood the department’s mission and concerns, however: “We are a rural community. We are different from the city of Columbia, we are not a college town. I think the county commission understands that but the health department does not… I will take up my concerns with the commission.”

It comes down to individual responsibility, he said. “It boils down to people making decisions for themselves, decisions that are responsible and respectful of others.”

Local competitor John Oliver of the Now see here boy BBQ team, said he was disappointed, having planned to enter all four divisions and the KCBS-sanctioned portion of the contest as well as the back yard BBQ portion. “This is a fun event and I know a lot of people were looking forward to it. But it will be back next year and so will we.”