The sixth annual United Way Valero BBQ Showdown will be returning to downtown Ardmore this weekend. This year, 40 teams are set to compete at Friday evening’s Cajun night, and the BBQ Showdown on Saturday. The public is invited to come sample everything being served up and enjoy other scheduled events including a cornhole tournament, a concert by Strongwood Friday evening and a classic car show and live auction on Saturday.
Sara Donaho Jones, community relations advisor for Valero, is a member of the Showdown planning committee and she said the event has grown dramatically in six short years.
“We were looking for ways to raise additional funds for United Way, and the first year it was just five or six teams of employees and contractors, but they thought they were on to something,” Jones said. As the contest grew year after year, the fundraiser moved from the Valero grounds to the parking lot of the Shops at Ardmore, to its current location downtown, she said.
“Last year, we raised $138,000 at the event,” Jones said. “What’s so cool is that 100% of everything we raised goes to the United Way of South Central Oklahoma. That includes all wristband sales, team entry fees and sponsorship dollars.”
In addition to raising more money year after year, Jones said every year has seen more teams competing, more events taking place and more people coming through. One of the largest changes came when Cajun night became an official part of the Showdown.
“It started off with the barbecue, but the teams would come in, set up and begin smoking their meat midday Friday in order to start serving on Saturday,” Jones said. “Basically, all the teams were getting together, hanging out and cooking Cajun food anyway, so we thought let’s see if we can’t capture some of that and make more money for United Way. Then the teams jumped right on board with making that part of the competition.”
Last year, the Showdown added the cornhole tournament Friday evening, and Jones said it was a surprise hit. So this event will also be returning and people can compete for $20 a person with all proceeds going to United Way.
“Last year we weren’t expecting to have as much participation as we got but it was a blast,” Jones said. “There were fathers and daughters, kids and all different kinds of people. It was such a cool group.”
Jones said one new feature this year is included in the price of the children’s wristband.
“For the $5 children’s wristband, not only can they eat any of the things cooked up by the teams but they can also get snow cones provided by Snow Blizzard and facepainting,” Jones said. She added that adults could also participate in those extra events with a small additional donation to United Way.
The United Way Valero BBQ Showdown will take place on Broadway between A Street and Washington from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. Adult wristbands are $10 per day and children’s wristbands for ages nine and under are $5 per day. For additional information and to see a full schedule of events visit