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Ceres gears up for bigger BBQ event
Sanctioned Aug. 27 event will be bigger
This was the scene at the Gilroy barbecue event which served as a model for the newly sanctioned Ceres Smoke on the River event which will take place on Aug. 27 at the golf course. - photo by Photo courtesy of Renee Ledbetter

Visiting other cities to learn more about the secrets to a successful barbecue event, Renee Ledbetter is certain the third annual Smoke on the River event will be better than ever.

The Ceres Chamber of Commerce president worked to get this year's event, set for Saturday, August 27, sanctioned for the first time by the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) as a "backyard/amateur event." She attended the two-day Gilroy Garlic-Que where she received her official KCBS training on judging and scoring.

"KCBS is big in the barbecue world and it's the most reputable and well-known organization to the barbecue community," said Ledbetter.

With the "backyard/amateur event" status, the Ceres can only attract those who don't own a restaurant or be a paid caterer.

Ceres can eventually move into a professional level next year which "really opens the opportunity to have many, many more competitors attend our (2017) event. That would really allow us to grow this event because there are a lot of professionals out there who compete."

As it is 22 teams have signed up for the event later this month.

The 2016 Smoke on the River Bands, Brews & BBQ, has the room to grow as the venue has changed from the Tuolumne River Lodge to the Lower Nine of River Oaks Golf Course & Event Center.

"Right now we're going to be picking up holes 11 and 12 but if we grow - which I'm hoping that we will - we will be able to spread out the entire length of the lower nine if we need to. It's definitely allowing us the opportunity to grow. We didn't have the opportunity to grow where we were previously but there are different challenges. There are not as many trees as we had before that offered shade. We're going to have to bring in more awnings."

From 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. live bands will perform as competition barbecuers from throughout California will be filling the air with smells that will drive most wild. A variety of microbreweries will be presenting their craft beers.

Advance tickets are $10 per adult, $7 for seniors and $5 for children aged 5-12. Admission at the gate costs $15 per adult, $10 per senior and $7 per child. Tickets are now being sold at the Ceres Chamber of Commerce office, 2938 Fourth Street; or online at
Barbecue tastings will be offered at 2 p.m. until gone. Tickets for samples are $1 each.

Those who come are invited to bring lawn chairs and blankets. No outside food, ice chests or pets are allowed in the area.

Music will be provided by several local bands, including California Outlaws which will open up the event. Patty Castillo Davis will perform mid-afternoon and Big Earl and the Crying Shame - they sold out the Gallo Centre twice - will be the headline act.

Commercial exhibitions will also be present. Arts and crafts vendors like Sandude and Blaker will be present as well as DBI Beverage of south Modesto selling Coors Lite, Corona, Lagunitas, Sierra Nevada and other craft beer. Ice cream, shaved ice and kettle corn will also be sold. Face painting for the kids and other activities will be offered.

To help the Chamber promote the raffle for the silver 2016 Ford F-150 Super Crew Cab pickup, anyone who has bought $100 tickets or will buy a ticket will receive four tickets to the event.

The Chamber intended to give the truck away at the Ceres Street Faire but was unable to do so because not all 650 tickets were sold. Ledbetter said approximately half of the tickets have sold.

For more information about tickets, or vendor and contestant participation, contact the Ceres Chamber of Commerce website, or call at 537-2601.

Proceeds from the event will go to the Ceres Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Foundation.