By Bonnie Glidewell

Three years ago, Ted Trujillo and Frank Kukla of Jacksonville, put together the first Southern Oregon Smoked Salmon Festival as a fundraiser with all proceeds going to the Maslow Project. An unplanned benefit was the start of a healthy competition for the skilled salmon chefs throughout … anywhere and everywhere!

Yep, I said it. This benefit is open to contestants from all over and is still seeking entries, even outside of Oregon. Word on the street is an Alaskan flew in to enter his tribe’s salmon last year!

This year’s Southern Oregon Smoked Salmon Festival will be taking place  from 1 to 6 p.m., on Oct. 1, at the Medford Commons Pear Blossom Park in downtown Medford. In 2014, this inaugural event drew more than 600 people and 13 competitors from all over the state and was an overwhelming success, raising $9,368.57 for Maslow Project. The goal in 2016 is to raise $15,000.

How does it work? Each contestant provides already prepared smoked salmon for the festival, and it is distributed among the event attendees. The crowd samples all of the entries followed by voting for their top three picks for the People’s Choice Awards. Last year’s first place winner, Paul Tipton of Applegate Valley, will be defending his crown again this year. Competition is expected to be intense! 

How do you get involved? Well, you have three simple options:

1. Compete, volunteer or attend. Or, you can do all three. The festival is a child friendly event and admission is free to all children under the age of 18 who are accompanied by an adult with a general admission or competitor ticket. There will be carnival games and a playground for the kids, and some enticing things for the adults. There will be beer and wine tasting tickets, music from three different bands and, of course, smoked salmon with your very own tasting passport. The grand prize winner will receive $1,000 as well as bragging rights on the festival website for a year and complimentary entry into the 2017 competition!

The event is made possible by the generous support of community sponsors, including: Applegate Rogue Building Company; Asante; Jackson Care Connect; Lithia 4 Kids; Oregon Pacific Financial Advisors; Jamie Hazlett, LLC; and Northwest Community Credit Union. “These sponsorships ensure that every single dollar we bring in at the event will go directly to support Maslow Project’s work with homeless youth and families here in the Rogue Valley,” says Maslow Project Event Coordinator Jorge Zamarripa.

Maslow Project is a nonprofit grassroots organization based in Medford that provides goal-oriented, wrap around support services for homeless children, ages 0-21, and their families throughout the Rogue Valley. The goal is to bring enough stability into their lives so that kids are able to stay in school and complete their educations. Their mission is to offer every homeless child and youth the probability of success and the opportunity for a better life. This is done by providing resources for basic needs, removing barriers to education and employment, and fostering self-sufficiency in a collaborative and empowering environment.

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