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Smoked salmon event at Britt draws hundreds

The sound of music at Jacksonville's Britt Festivals was accompanied by the smell of smoked fish as hundreds of visitors descended on the first Southern Oregon Smoked Salmon Fest.

A $20 ticket bought attendees five tastes of food from area vendors and beer from Walkabout Brewing Co. as area bands took to the stage above the garden's steps.

"This is a culinary event, with proceeds going to the Maslow center," said Ted Trujillo, referring to the Medford-based, nonprofit Maslow Project, which provides outreach services to homeless youth. "We're trying to build a relationship both with the venue and with Maslow."

Trujillo said festival organizers had planned for roughly 450 visitors and were up to about 360 by 1 p.m. Maslow volunteer Frank Kukla, who brainstormed the event with Trujillo, had little time to talk. "I'd shake your hand, but mine are covered in fish," Kukla said jokingly as assistants helped him sort small cuts of salmon into paper trays for waiting judges.

The festival ended up with 13 contestants in the smoked salmon competition, with competitors coming from as far away as Portland. Kukla said Tom Bates, chef of the Bella Union restaurant in Jacksonville, also brought more than 200 pounds of smoked salmon for attendees.

All of the contestants seemed confident about their smoking technique, which was in evidence as Trujillo made his rounds. "You think you'll win?" he asked one competitor as clouds of smoke drifted from nearby tents. "Well, duh!"

In the end, Ellis McQuery of Tillamook walked away with first place and $1000. Steven King of Jacksonville took both second place and people's choice. Peter Mendell of Bend won third place.

Brian Porter of Medford judges a fillet of smoked salmon during the festival. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch
David Holmes, left, and Greg Hawkins of Santa Barbara, Calif., enjoy smoked cheese and beer while watching a barbecue demonstration during the first ever Southern Oregon Smoked Salmon Fest at the Britt Festivals' grounds in Jacksonville. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch