Smith Mountain Lake will have two popular events for local residents this weekend. The annual SML Chili Festival at Bridgewater Plaza and the Virginia Dare’s Lighted Boat Parade are expected to bring in some people.
There has been a lot of excitement at this year’s SML Chili Festival. According to Erin Stanley, events and relations representative for the SML Regional Chamber of Commerce, this year’s festival will feature more than 38 vendors as well as 15 teams competing with their best chef. then good.
“We’re already sold out,” Stanley said.
With crowds more willing to return to events as the numbers of COVID-19 decline, Stanley said, the chamber expects more than 2,000 visitors on the day of the festival. “As long as the sun goes down, I think we’re going to do something really cool,” he said.
Bands will play during the event scheduled for 11 am to 4 pm at Bridgewater Plaza. It costs $7 to enter the festival and try each of the team’s chili.
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At 3:30 p.m. the awards for the best of the tournament will be announced, judged by some of the country’s chefs, as well as the four awards for People’s Choice and Best Showmanship are chosen by the fans.
Later that evening at the Virginia Dare Marina boats will be presented for the annual Lighted Boat Parade. The event has grown in popularity over the past few years since it was almost over.
The parade reduced participation to only 5 or 6 boats in 2016 but has since slowed to a comeback due to the efforts of new members. They moved earlier in the year to get more input from the public. Marina manager Garret Meyer said most of the participants had already retired their boats when the event took place in December.
With the change to the first weekend in November, the parade has now become the beginning of Christmas for the community of the lake. It has also seen the increase of nearly 40 boats in the past years.
“This year we’re trying to get more than 50 boats,” Meyer said.
The event also provides toys and winter coats for children in need. Members and visitors to the marina for the parade are encouraged to bring coats and toys to the marina that will be distributed through a partnership with the Smith Mountain Lake Marine Volunteer Fire Department.
According to Meyer, anyone who wants to participate in the parade can come to the marina at 6 pm on Saturday evening. There will be a short meeting of the captains before the boats depart at 7 pm
“Any boat can participate,” Meyer said. “Even if it’s just decorated with a Christmas wreath.”
The Virginia Dare is expected to arrive at the Hales Ford Bridge at 8 pm and return to the marina. Meyer said the number of visitors to the bars behind the Bridgewater Condominiums has increased in recent years. He expects more than 100 this Saturday.
“This is an event that gets everyone in the holiday spirit,” Meyer said.