Dowagiac Summer Festival, BBQ Competition arrives next week

Published 12:18 pm Friday, July 7, 2023

DOWAGIAC — The sound of sizzling meats and the smell of smoky flavors will be wafting through downtown Dowagiac next week.

The Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce is gearing up to host its annual Dowagiac Summer Festival and BBQ Competition Friday, July 14 and Saturday, July 15 in downtown Dowagiac.

New to the festival is a barbecue competition featuring an amateur division and will be sanctioned by 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.

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. Families can browse summer sales at retail specialty shops, and the booths of artisans, community organizations and commercial vendors.

Oak and Ash BBQ will also be selling barbeque and hosting a beer tent with music. Restaurant co-owner Tim Tinker is looking forward to next weekend’s festivities.

“We’re super thrilled,” he said. “We can’t wait for everyone to come to town and see this festival happening. It will be fun to show off Dowagiac and be a part of the community.”

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.

“It’s a really tight-knit community,” Tinker said of the BBQ community. “It’s always fun to have people around that are excited to share experiences, hobbies and professions and having people come to town for BBQ. They’re excited to see what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”

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.

Merchants and restaurants with “Stroll” signs will be featuring specialty items and food specials with a BBQ theme. Tinker believes the chamber’s decision to incorporate the competition into the festival was a great move for businesses and community members.

“It makes for a fun couple of days in Dowagiac,” he said. “There’s something to do for everybody. We’re excited with what the Chamber is doing with its intentionality. It’s not just another summer festival. There’s a point and a purpose and that feels really good.”

Oak and Ash has become a local favorite since opening its doors in June of 2022. The restaurant recently expanded its hours to seven days per week and recently launched a brunch menu available starting at 9 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Tinker looks forward to meeting festival goers eager to try something new.

“I know there will be people in downtown Dowagiac Saturday morning,” he said. “They will be able to come in and enjoy brunch if they want to beat the crowds.”

For times and complete details, visit the Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce Facebook page or check out the website at