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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Smoke On the Water is Dead. Long Live Smoke Off the Water.

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Smoke On the Water is Dead. Long Live Smoke Off the Water.

by James Coulter

For nearly 20 years, Smoke on the Water has been hosted at the Boys and Club of Polk County (BGCPC) in Winter Haven. However, when the BGCPC pulled the plug on the event being hosted on their property, the annual barbecue fundraiser was forced to cancel this year’s event.

Fortunately, The Humane Society of Polk County more than graciously opened its doors, and the event was rescheduled and hosted on its property under the new name Smoke Off the Water.

While the newly-named fundraiser did not have barbecue teams competing for awards and prizes through a Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS)-style competition, attendees were still able to enjoy finger-licking good barbecue along with live music, good drinks, and several other vendors.

Proceeds from the event will go towards the Humane Society of Polk County, a local non-profit organization that operates Central Florida’s only non-kill animal shelter. When the BGCPC decided not to have the annual event hosted on their property, the Humane Society swooped in to save it from being canceled.

“The Humane Society was extremely excited at the opportunity to host Smoke off the Water,” said Kristin Woolf, Board of Director and Treasurer. “The opportunity presented itself, and it is not free to help animals. So we are very excited to partner with the event and put it together these past few weeks.”

Both the Humane Society and the event organizers had only three weeks to plan and set up the event at the new location. However, all of their hard work paid off when the event experienced a phenomenal turnout.

“We just could not be more grateful for the turnout we had this year. It is the best turnout,” Woolf said. “I do not know if I can feel my legs right now. It had been two long days.”

The push for the Humane Society to pick up where the BGCPC was spurned on by public outcry over Smoke on the Water being canceled. When news broke out, people called and contacted the event organizers begging and pleading for the event to go on.

“The community outcry was incredible,” said Kevin Ward, the Boss Hof of the Executive Committee. “When we got canceled…our phones and Facebooks were blowing up with people saying we can’t cancel this event…We are so excited that the Humane Society decided to pick us up to put this on for them, and we did. We pulled it off, and it was better than ever.”

Ward and his fellow committee members were more than pleased by the turnout for their newly named Smoke Off the Water. The turnout was exceptional, and the vendors and other volunteers helped pull the event off within the short time frame of three weeks.

“I think we had one of the best turnouts we ever had,” he said. “I love the camaraderie we have with the people who have been doing this for however long.”

Marcia Smith was impressed with how well the event was organized. She is eternally grateful for everyone who helped put it on, especially those who worked to ensure the event and its new location were clean.

“We would like to thank Keep Winter Haven Clean and Beautiful for coming out to help keep the trash and everything for a minimum, to keep it beautiful,” she said.

Melanie Brown Culpepper has been volunteering at the event for many years. As a local philanthropist who loves to give back to her community through various local fundraisers and committees, she especially loves Smoke On/Off the Water for its overall lively camaraderie.

“I am so glad and honored to be able to do this and to see the whole community coming together these past three weeks and making this happen,” she said. “I am happy we can help with this, and one of the best turnouts I have been to.”

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