The 77th Annual Banks BBQ begins Friday

In the predawn hours Thursday, all was quite in Banks.

But at Sunset Park beginning before 5 a.m., the 77th Annual Banks BBQ Truck & Tractor Pull was playing out in miniature. Daryl Schmidlin—Chairman of Barbecue Beef, as he put it—was making the famous BBQ sandwiches in a small pot.

Several vintage hot rods paraded across the lawn near the gun club at the back of the park. A series of tiny tractors drove by, too. Then, a fierce but short demonstration of tug-of-war, and a combine was fired up for good measure.

Supporters and volunteers with the Banks Youth Football even brought a pared-down version of what will be the third annual cornhole tournament, though they waited for the sunrise to be able to see the titular hole.

It wasn’t a practice run for the real thing—most of the volunteers there Thursday morning have been running the BBQ for decades—but rather for the benefit of Drew Carney, an anchor at KGW News at Sunrise and his crew, who were filming for a segment of their show.

This reporter, while keeping a lower profile, was also there to see what was happening in the still, quiet hours of the morning in Banks.

Still and quiet, that is, until Carney revved up the engine on Big Red, a combine that will soon meet up to seven others in battle Sunday afternoon for the ever-popular combine derby.

Old Red is a perennial favorite and one of several immediately recognizable combines that have taken part over the years in the destruction derby.

Carney deftly steered the diesel-belching behemoth in a circle with one hand while clutching a mic in the other. When it comes time for the combines to do battle, the drivers will be a bit more focused on the task at hand—crashing into other combines—and wear safety gear.

The idea, a packet listing the rules for the derby, notes that safety is important, but combines shouldn’t be too beefed up.

“Over reinforcement will only delay and lengthen the action, which will only lose the audience’s interest,” the rules read.

The Banks BBQ has become its own machine over the years it’s been in operation since just after World War Two, and it has a lot of moving parts. There’s the poker tournament on Friday evening to kick things off. Saturday sees a smorgasbord of activities. Grandstands open in the afternoon for the main attraction of the day, the tractor pull and then the truck pull, and a Car Cruise In is sure to draw drivers and spectators alike. There’s a beer garden, the cornhole tournament, live music… the list goes on. Check out the schedule below.

Sunday is even more packed. A parade through Banks is a highlight of the day, and the pancake breakfast before that is not to miss. A piece of old Americana lives on in Banks every year in the form of a frog jumping contest and a greased pole climbing contest.

The grease, it should be noted, is no longer bulldozer bearing grease, but food-grade lubricant.

A young contestant struggles on the grease pole August 22, 2021. Photo: Chas Hundley

It’s kids clambering up the grease pole, in search of the cash on top, and it’s a good metaphor for the whole BBQ. The money raised at the event goes back to the nonprofit Banks Sunset Park Association, which owns the park and provides fields for youth sports, meeting locations for youth-based organizations, and more.

While inquiring as to the fundraising nature of the event with a number of volunteers Thursday morning over the din of a retired farm vehicle, one person—this reporter couldn’t make out who—summed it up:

“It’s for the youth in our community.”

A note about this newspaper’s coverage: I’ll be running around all weekend, frantically talking to people and getting stories up as quickly as possible about the volunteers, businesses, winners and losers, parades and events that define this community event. If you’re someone who believes what they’re doing at the BBQ is newsworthy, help me out by emailing me at [email protected] with more information!

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Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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