Shane Gibson/Metro Winnipeg blues singer Romi Mayes belts out a tune at the official kick off for the inaugural Winnipeg BBQ & Blues Festival held Monday.

Manitoba’s newest summer festival—the Winnipeg BBQ & Blues Festival—promises to taste as good as it sounds.

The inaugural festival, slated to hit Red River Exhibition Park Aug. 17-19, will pair local, national, and international blues performers with a Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) sanctioned BBQ competition.

“The combination of food, barbecue, and blues just seemed like a natural,” said festival managing partner Kevin Walters at the event’s official launch Monday. “Winnipeg traditionally has been a great blues town.”

Over the weekend, blues lovers will get to see smoking Grammy and Juno award winning blues artists, including Jimmie Vaughan and the Tilt a Whirl Band, Little Miss Higgins, the Sojourners, The Perpetrators, and the festival’s ambassador and local blues legend, Big Dave McLean.

While the performers play smoking blues riffs on stage, the Winnipeg Free Press Pit Masters Championship will bring actual smoke Saturday and Sunday with a BBQ competition open to amateurs and professionals competing for a  $10,000 purse—the largest in Canada.

“We’re going to have pit masters from all over North America,” explained the festivals other managing partner Rick Fenton.

To get everyone in the mood for barbecue, the KCBS is offering a half-day course May 12 for Manitobans to become certified BBQ judges under the tutelage of master judges from Tennessee.

“Once you become a certified KCBS judge you can judge at any BBQ contest that the KCBS puts on across North America,” noted Walters.

A limited run of 1,000 early bird tickets for the entire weekend and a special VIP “Meat Ball” gala go on sale Thursday through Ticketmaster for $32.50.

For more information, or to register for the KCBS judging course, check out the festival’s website at winnipegbbqandblues.ca.

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