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Smokin’ on the Plaza starts today

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Smokin’ on the Plaza starts today

The ninth annual Smokin’ on the Plaza returns to downtown Lovington this week with different foods, games, competition and live music.

Lovington MainStreet’s barbecue event is today and Saturday where 40 to 50 barbecue competition contestants will vie in a cook-off, while about 4,000 visitors are expected each day.

The annual event is moving back to the downtown area after spending 2017 at the Lea County Fairgrounds due to construction work downtown. This year’s Smokin’ on the Plaza is located in the area of Lovington Public Library and Troy Harris Center. For the event, the City of Lovington and New Mexico Department of Transportation approved temporary street closures for Main Street from Central Avenue to Avenue B, Avenue A from 1st to Love streets and Love Street from Central Avenue to Avenue B.

“We’re closing off Main Street itself, like actual Main Street, we’re closing that down,” Lovington MainStreet executive director Mara Salcido-Alcantar said Wednesday. “We’re going to have Bart Crow, Zane Williams and Frank Ray performing. We have a few other local bands as well. Frank Ray will perform on Friday and then Bart Crow and Zane Williams will perform on Saturday.”

Crow, Williams and Ray are Country music acts. Live music starts at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Aside from music and competition, Smokin’ on the Plaza features several food and non-food vendors like a mechanical bull and “Water Wars,” where people buy water balloons to throw at each other.

Lovington’s Drylands Brewing Co. is sponsoring a beer garden. There are new events planned in addition to returning staples like the children’s barbecue competition and a $3,500 cash raffle. A cornhole tournament has been added to festivities and is set for Saturday. A Little Miss Smokin’ Q beauty pageant is also planned for Friday.

“We’re going to have a lot of food vendors, a lot of new food vendors and some other activities for the kids to do,” Salcido-Alcantar said. “The KidsQ, like always, and then the barbecue contestants will be here as well.”

The cook-off competition is International Barbecue Cookers Association-sanctioned, as Lovington Mayor David Trujillo pointed out. Trujillo is going to be one of the barbecue judges and said he was excited about the event, concerts and seeing the public.

“I look forward to seeing a lot of happy little faces, as well as big faces out there and everybody enjoying the day and trying to stay out of the heat as much as possible,” Trujillo said. “Definitely enjoying the atmosphere, a good family atmosphere for Lea County — and also the community of Lovington.”

Barbecue cook-off contestants compete in categories of brisket, chicken and pork spare ribs. There are unsanctioned categories for beans, desserts and “anything goes.” They are subject to IBCA rules and regulations found at ibcabbq.org.

Salcido-Alcantar also stressed the family atmosphere of Smokin’ on the Plaza. She additionally reminded people that most of the food vendors are cash.

“This is one of our signature events for Lovington and it is a huge fundraiser for the downtown area and for Lovington MainStreet, in particular, so we’d really love to see more people come out here,” she said. “We have everything for all age groups, so there definitely is something fun for everyone to have.”

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