Dowagiac Chamber to host national BBQ festival, competition

Published 5:01 pm Monday, April 24, 2023

DOWAGIAC — This year, Dowagiac’s annual summer festival will have a new flavor.

The Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce is hosting its inaugural Doe-Wah-Jack Bar-Bee-Cue, a BBQ competition and two-day summer festival, July 14-15 in downtown Dowagiac.

A sanctioned backyard competition with the Kansas City Barbecue Society – the largest competitive barbecue organization in the world – the event will bring pitmasters, judges and enthusiasts from all over the country to downtown Dowagiac.

According to Chamber Marketing and Event Coordinator Matt Money, the idea for a BBQ competition/festival came from Dowagiac native and celebrity grill master James “Big J” Boatright Sr. , founder of Boatright’s BBQ in St. Louis, Missouri, who returned to his hometown last summer to host a BBQ event.

“(Summer In The City) has been going on for years and we just wanted to bring a different feel and just kind of a more theme to it to attract more people,” said Chamber Marketing and Event Coordinator Matt Money. “People are traveling from all over the nation to participate in it. Also, there are judges that will come from all over to participate. Not only is it bringing a cool new event to Dowagiac, but it’s also bringing in people to spend money and stay in our area.”

Festivities will take place both Friday, July 14 and Saturday, July 15. Front Street will be closed for vendors and kids carnival rides and live music will also be played in Beckwith Park. Friday night, the annual Steve’s Run 5K will be taking place at 6 p.m. in downtown Dowagiac. Oak and Ash BBQ will also be selling barbeque and hosting a beer tent with music.

“Steve’s Run attracts about three-to-four-hundred people that will be in downtown Dowagiac Friday evening to participate in the race and watch the race,” Money said.

The barbeque competition, featuring chicken and pork rib categories, will be taking place Saturday in the parking lot behind Oak and Ash. While shopping local vendors and storefronts, guests will be able to both see and smell the contestants in action.


Grand Champion: $500
Reserve Champion $400

Chicken and rib winners, judged separately:

1st Place $300 each
2nd Place $200 each
3rd Place $150 each

Money anticipates having approximately 20 contestants competing.

“Front Street will be smelling great,” he said. “We’ll have live music at Beckwith Park for people to buy food from food trucks, support our local shops and we’ll have vendors down Front Street and on Commercial just to give a good summer feel to downtown Dowagiac.”

Since its announcement on Friday, Money said the response from the community and beyond has been positive. As of Monday morning, five teams have signed up and 15 judges have signed up.

“We don’t have a barbecue competition like this in our area,” he said. “That’s why it kind of sparked our interest to bring something new to the area and kind of develop that. A couple of days in, our Facebook has blown up, my email’s blowing up, so people are definitely interested in this barbecue competition.”

For more event details, questions or to get involved, email Matt Money at