On with the show: United Way Valero BBQ Showdown coming to Regional Park in October

Drew Butler
The Daily Ardmoreite

In 2014 a small group of Valero employees and contractors held a fundraiser on the Ardmore Refinery grounds to raise money for the United Way of South Central Oklahoma. A hand-full of teams competed to cook the best barbecue, and the event ended up raising approximately $5,000. As the years passed, the United Way Valero BBQ Showdown grew to incorporate an additional night with a focus on Cajun food, and the event moved to the parking lot of the Shops at Ardmore, to the Depot District and last year to Regional Park where it took in $120,000.

The event will be returning to Regional Park once again on October 1 and 2, and unlike last year's drive through event, this year's Showdown will be more like those in years past. The price for a wrist band is $20 per day for adults and $5 per day for children ages nine and under. The wrist bands will allow attendees to walk around and sample as much as they like from any of the competing teams.

Sara Donaho Jones, community relations advisor for the Ardmore Valero Refinery, said 36 teams have already signed up to participate and registrations continue to come in. The teams come from all over, ranging from Louisiana to Texas to Oklahoma.

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The 8th Annual United Way Valero BBQ Showdown will be at Ardmore Regional Park on October 1 and 2. Cajun Night will be Friday, October 1 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., and the BBQ Showdown will be Saturday, October 2 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Valero BBQ showdown features live music, family activities 

On Friday, October 1, Cajun Night will last from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and in addition to the food, there will be other special events happening all evening beginning with a corn hole tournament. The cost to compete in the tournament is $20 per team with all proceeds going to UWSCO.

Friday night will also have live music from two bands, local act Strongwood and Louisiana natives Jay-Band and the Zydeco Posse.

"We decided we wanted to bring in something Cajun for Cajun night, and some of our Louisiana teams told us about Jay-Band the Zydeco Posse," Jones said. "So we reached out to them and they're coming up from Louisiana. I feel like a lot of people here aren't familiar with Cajun music, and even if they are they certainly don't get the opportunity to hear it performed live very often. So this will be a really fun new addition to the evening."

Both Friday and Saturday will feature the return of the kids' fun zone which will include a bounce house, free snow cones, and face painting.

On Saturday, October 2 the BBQ Showdown will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The awards presentation will begin at 1 p.m. and trophies will be given out to the top three teams in the categories of ribs, brisket and pork butt.

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'Can't wait to see everyone'

UWSCO Executive Director Daela Echols said she is especially excited for this year's event as it will be the first time she gets to experience the full scope of the BBQ Showdown since coming onboard in late 2019.

"Last year was the drive through event, and even though we got to walk around and talk to the teams and meet people as they drove in, we weren't able to really get the full experience," Echols said. "I'm looking forward to seeing people come back and getting to experience the fun community event that I've heard so much about. I can't wait to see everyone interacting and the kids enjoying the fun zone."

One special aspect of the BBQ Showdown is that 00% of all money raised from the armbands and the corn hole tournament will go directly to UWSCO. Out of these funds, 2% will then go to operational costs and the remaining 98% will stay in Southern Oklahoma to be distributed between UWSCO's 33 partner organizations.

Wristbands can be purchased in person or in advance online at www.uwsco.org. Online purchases will be given a QR code that can be scanned from their smartphone upon arrival at the event. Attendees are asked to enter Regional Park through the east gates — similar to going through the Festival of Lights — and will be directed to parking upon entry.