Smokin' in Steele

For the second consecutive year, the Smokin’ in Steele BBQ and Blues Festival has been canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The barbecue contest featuring living blues music, organized by the local Knights of Columbus Council 945, donates thousands of dollars to a local charitable organization each year. (File photo/

Though people are feeling optimistic about a possible end to the COVID-19 pandemic now that the vaccines are becoming more available, event organizers are still erring on the side of caution.

Smokin’ in Steele BBQ and Blues Festival organizers announced earlier this week that they will once again be holding off on hosting their annual event. John Hammer, the entertainment director for the festival and member of Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame, said in a press release Tuesday that the decision is in direct relation to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and that the group felt there was not a way to properly present the festival.

“We proudly produce Smokin’ in Steele in the spirit of giving back to our community in order to help make it a better place to live for all,” Hammer said. “We feel that, although it is a heartbreaking choice, it is the only responsible and right thing to do for our community as well as Smokin’ in Steele.”

Produced by the Knight of Columbus Council 945 in Owatonna, Smokin’ in Steele donates the money raised at the annual event to a variety of charitable groups. The state championship barbecue contest – as proclaimed by then Gov. Mark Dayton in 2011 – takes place on the Steele County Fairgrounds and features vendors, competitions for all ages, an antique tractor parade and show, family bike rides, an annual 5K and live blues music. The annual event began in 2008.

Hammer said the event will return in June 2022.

“We firmly believe we are on a path to recovery and have already been making plans to present Smokin’ in Steele 2022 even bigger and better,” Hammer said. “Wishing everyone patience, safety and health.”

Though Smokin’ in Steele is the first major community event to cancel in 2021, the iconic Corky’s Early Bird Men’s Softball Classic that is typical held the first full weekend in May announced last week they will be moving the 2021 tournament to the weekend of July 29. The charitable event is considered the fifth largest softball tournament in the world.

Reach Reporter Annie Granlund at 507-444-2378 or follow her on Twitter @OPPAnnie. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota.

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