Where’s there’s smoke, there’s fun. And friendly competition.

Jeff Yarnell can tell you so.

He’s founder and organizer of the sixth annual Smoke on the Square in Hope. He’s also one whose burning enthusiasm sees the event that last year attracted an estimated 1,100 people growing considerably this year.

He attributes that projection partly to the addition of a second day via Friday’s opener, the addition of children’s activities and several more teams than last year in the barbecue competition featuring pork, ribs, brisket and chicken.

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“There are three aspects for that (growth),” Yarnell said. “One is the effort that we as the Community Center of Hope have put forth in helping it grow. Two is because of the barbecue. That’s a huge world out there, and it seems like everybody follows it.

“And third is just because of building on the local awareness.”

The event, also featuring a variety of vendor booths, generates funds for the nonprofit Community Center of Hope, serving Flat Rock and Haw Creek townships via child care, a food bank and other programs.

Last year, it raised $5,500, said Chelsea Kendall, the center’s executive director. A few other years, it has generated $7,000 or more.

That money means enough that even rain can’t stop food sales.

Meals — $9 for a brisket basket, $8 for pulled pork, $7 for chicken breast, and $4 for a children’s hot dog alternative — will continue as a drive-up service.

“We’ll just throw on ponchos and bring the food to people’s cars,” Kendall said.

Yarnell hopes to see even more families attend this year. Toward that goal, he has booked Shelbyville’s Huseman Entertainment to set up three children’s carnival rides on the north side of the square as an extra draw for families.

The Hope-based Night Owl Country Band, which performed last year, will kick off the music at 5:30 p.m. Friday and will include its original tune, “Surprising Town,” focusing on parts of Hope’s history and its leaders. Dusty Road Country Band from North Vernon and Rotn 4 Reggae from Hope will perform Saturday.

When the smoke clears

What: Sixth annual Smoke on the Square fundraiser for the Community Center of Hope.

When: Food service, including four meal choices, 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. until sellout Saturday. Food will be sold at the curb drive-through style if it rains, according to organizers.

Where: Hope Town Square.

Children’s entertainment: Various carnival rides from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and noon to 6 p.m. Saturday.

Music:

  • Night Owl Country Band, 5:30 p.m. Friday.
  • Dusty Road Country Band, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday; Rotn 4 Reggae, 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Admission: Free.

Barbecue competition: Registration for teams still open.

Information: hopebbqcontest.com.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.