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Feature - Artful carnage

A guide to the low temperatures, high seasoning and holy smoke of this weekend's Canadian National Barbeque Championships


By G.D. Maxwell

The three-day weekend upon us is the only quintessentially Canadian holiday we celebrate. Known as Simcoe Day in Ontario, the uninspiringly named civic holiday in most of the rest of the country, and universally called simply the August long weekend, it celebrates nothing. Well, summer, which is so fleeting and well-deserved in most of the country it is truly worthy of celebration.

For three days, Canadians will chase as much summer livin’ as they can. Beaches and cottages across the country will reverberate with high-wattage antics and power relaxation. Cities will bristle with festivals and celebrations. Whistler will... well, every day’s a holiday in Whistler. But in a town with more than its fair share of events devoted to the sybaritic lifestyle, this holiday weekend marks a turning point.

This year, the August long weekend in Whistler is the pits. Barbeque pits. Sweet smellin’, fire-breathin’, food of the Gods, barbeque pits.

For the first of what organizers hope will be many years, Whistler is the site of this year’s Canadian National Barbeque Championships. The scene at Dusty’s will be one of artful carnage. Be forewarned: There’s nothing in the rest of this story – and nothing this weekend at Dusty’s – suitable for consumption by vegetarians.

What you will find though, if you take a trip down to Whistler’s original side, Creekside, will be up to 20 teams of meatheads laying down a pall of smoke that smells so good it’ll buckle your knees. You’ll also see one of the most bizarre collections of outdoor cooking apparatuses you’ve ever encountered, everything from compact R2D2-looking Webers, to the 12’ Klose pit generally anchored to Dusty’s upstairs patio, to slick, mag-wheeled, trailered pits, some defying description.

Teams from Canada and the US will be there vying for ribbons and bragging rights and an invitation to the pinnacle of barbequedom, the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational Barbeque in Lynchburg, Tennessee, where they’ll dream of becoming the best of the best, the undisputed – at least until next year – champion barbequers on planet Earth.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Memories of Barbeques Past

In a barbeque-challenged country, the Canadian Championship is the work of David and Pat Veljacic. David, an avid meat smoker and, ironically, firefighter from Vancouver, started the competition in 1987 with his wife. It was a labour of love and like many such events, it wouldn’t have happened at all if it weren’t for the Herculean efforts the founders put in to it.

Shortly after the competition in 2000, David lost the love of his life when Pat died. Broken in spirit and suffering himself from cancer, David spoke with Paul Street and Tony Wayland about bringing the championships to Whistler. Paul and Tony, the driving spirits behind Dusty’s rebirth as a barbeque joint, were keen on the idea but the logistics couldn’t be worked out for 2001.