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There are festivals held across Canada to celebrate custom cars, music, wine, beer and so much more, but there aren’t any that celebrate hot peppers except for Similkameen Sizzle, taking place this weekend in Keremeos.
For the 17th consecutive year, Similkameen Sizzle: Canada’s Only Hot Pepper Festival is set to take over Memorial Park in the centre of Keremeos in what has become that community’s biggest social event of the year, said Joan Bauman, chair of the organizing committee.
Similkameen Sizzle is a special weekend to bring the community together and celebrate the fact the Similkameen Valley has farmers who grow more than 200 different varieties of peppers, said Bauman.
“We grow more than 200 varieties of peppers and yes, most of them are hot peppers,” she said. “Someone came up with the idea of holding a hot pepper festival all those years ago and it was a big success and been around ever since.
“We’re expecting anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 people to come out and have some fun. This is the biggest festival of the year here in Keremeos and I know all of the local residents always look forward to it. We also get a lot of visitors coming in from all over the region to join us in our great little festival.”
The fun begins Friday evening with a Family Dance between 6 - 10 p.m. in Memorial Park, with the band Fender Benders providing the entertainment by playing some classic rock and roll, said Bauman.
There will be a beer and wine garden set up for adults over the course of the evening.
Saturday’s festivities will begin early with a Pancake Breakfast set to commence at 7:30 a.m.
Numerous food and craft vendors will also be setting up in the morning as well. A disc jockey will be spinning tunes all day and inflatables will be brought in for kids of all ages, she said.
The always-popular Similkameen Sizzle Chili Cookoff will take place, starting at 11:30 a.m. and everyone in attendance can sample various hot chili recipes for a couple of bucks apiece until 1 p.m., she said.
After the Chili Cookoff wraps up, there will be separate competitions for best hot sauce, salsa and jelly, as well as a new “miscellaneous” category, explained Bauman.
“We had people saying they like to make things like hot mustard, pickles and other things, so we decided to add this new miscellaneous category, which should be a lot of fun,” she said.
All of the food tasting is done by a committed group of volunteers who do blind taste tests to determine the winners, she said.
“It’s not a big deal, but people do take pride in the food they enter and it’s always nice to win,” she said. “The judges also take their jobs very seriously and want to reward those who come up with the best recipes.”
Perhaps the biggest highlight of the day is the Hot Pepper Eating Contest, set to begin at 4 p.m.
“We start with jalapenos and it only gets hotter from there,” said Bauman. “It’s always good for a few laughs.”
Competitors have to sign a waiver to enter, said Bauman, noting some of the peppers contestants consume are so hot they have to be handled with gloves.
With the exception of food and drink, the entire festival is free of charge.
“We’ve got a lot to offer and we like to show off what a friendly and fun community Keremeos is,” she said. “We have some amazing corporate sponsors, which allows us to offer the entire weekend free of charge and we really couldn’t pull this off without their support.”
There will be 50/50 draws all day Saturday and draws for five gift baskets, all which have more than $300 in gift certificates and prizes inside them, she said.
For more on the Similkameen Sizzle festival, click here.