The Similkameen Sizzle Pepper Festival keeps getting bigger and bigger.
“The last two years, we’ve put the sizzle on the map,” said organizer Colleen Christensen, adding the two-day event — Sept. 20 and 21 this year in Keremeos’ Memorial Park — has grown about 50 per cent in 10 years.
One of the main factors it has become popular over the years is that people are drawn to it because it is specifically a pepper festival, she said.
“When you talk about a pepper festival everybody says, ‘What? A pepper festival?’ That’s the thing that tweaks people’s interest,” she said. “There are a whole bunch of fall fairs but when you say pepper festival they want to know more about it.”
The hot pepper eating contest, which takes place on Saturday at 4 p.m., is the most popular event, she added.
“It is extremely popular. The park can be empty and all of a sudden the pepper eating contest is happening and you look around and the park is full. People actually come back just to watch,” said Christensen, adding the chili cook-off at 11 a.m. is also popular.
The Friday Night dance kicks off the festival with a slew of local performers. It opens with the Oxbow Swamp Revue, and the headlining band is The Organic Humans.
Saturday kicks off with pancake breakfast at 8 a.m. with vendors opening at 9 a.m. There will be live entertainment all day from DJ JD. Also on Saturday, there will be a hot sauce, salsa and everything else pepper contest and hot pepper display.
Christensen said she has been working on the organizing committee for 10 years and remembers a time when it was just a small community event.
“It was a very low-key Similkameen event. We did all the stuff that we do now but it was done in a very low-key way. We didn’t have the funding that we needed,” she said. “Back in the day, it was only the one day. When it was first going on, we only had the dinner and the dance on the same day.
“We had the chili cook-off, the hot pepper eating contest and always had vendors in the park. And we always had breakfast so the basics were there.”
Another major thing that makes the festival popular is that it is free.
“That’s what is special about this event. We’ve made it so that is affordable as can be and fun.”
While they don’t have exact numbers of how many people come to Keremeos at the time, they do come from around the region and west coast, she said.
The family-friendly event also features a bouncy castle and play and spray kids’ area.
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