Photos: Similkameen Sizzlefest brings the heat to Keremeos

Competitors chow down on a jalapeno, the coolest of five peppers, at the Similkameen Sizzlefest. The ghost pepper was only the second-hottest pepper of the day. 
(Brennan Phillips - Review)Competitors chow down on a jalapeno, the coolest of five peppers, at the Similkameen Sizzlefest. The ghost pepper was only the second-hottest pepper of the day. (Brennan Phillips - Review)
A couple sharks were out of the water at the Similkameen Sizzle Fest on Sept. 23 in Keremeos. (Brennan Phillips - Keremeos Review)
Contestants in the hot pepper eating competition chow down on some of the hottest things on earth. (Brennan Phillips - Keremeos Review)
The crowd gathered to watch the hot pepper eating contest. (Brennan Phillips - Keremeos Review)

Keremeos welcomed back the always popular Sizzle Pepper Fest to a steady stream of visitors on Saturday, Sept. 24.

Hundreds came down to Memorial Park for the annual hot pepper festival, the only one of its kind in Canada. After a hiatus over the pandemic, people were eager to come back down to the festival.

“When I got here just after six there were already vendors lined up and waiting to get in,” said Similkameen Development Association president Mac Watson.

The whole day was a big success, and with the 50/50 draws throughout the festival over $1,000 was raised for the Cawston Elementary School breakfast program.

A bouncy castle and a mechanical bull, along with the regional district’s Physical Activity Trailer, kept the many families and their children enjoying the beautiful sunny day. There was even a mechanical bull riding contest at the end of the day.

Food vendors came from all around to offer everything from shaved ice to exotic hot dogs.

The highlight of the festival, as always, was the hot pepper eating contest. Eight brave competitors took on the challenge.

READ MORE: Photos: Similkameen Sizzlefest 2019

The rules for it were simple; five peppers, starting with a jalapeno and getting spicier from there, had to be eaten fully and the fastest to eat them all won.

The jalapeno, which reached up to 800 units on the Scoville scale of heat, was followed by a Scotch Bonnett which hits up to 350,000 units, then a chocolate habanero of up 550,00 and then a white ghost pepper, which capped out at one million Scoville units.

The ghost pepper was not the hottest pepper that competitors had to fend with.

The title of hottest pepper of the day went to the Chocolate Trinidad Morurga Scorpion Pepper, which can reach up to two million units on the Scoville scale.

The winner was a local from Keremeos, Nathan Smith, who despite being calm and cool without any sign of having just wolfed down concentrated fire, said that he doesn’t usually eat hot peppers.

“I’m stubborn, that helps,” said Smith.

“They’re all a big blur, after the second or third pepper it was pretty bad, but it subsided pretty quick.”

The competition, and the festival itself, brought people from across the Okanagan and beyond to Keremeos’ Memorial Park. The second-place finisher, Christopher Reid came down with his family from Vernon just for the pepper-eating contest.

Speaking to him afterwards, his body was still shaking from the experience.

“I knew I was going to be suffering,” Reid said. “It’s a different kind of pain than a hot sauce or hot meal. The last one was the worst one, by a wide margin.”

Despite the pain, it was still an enjoyable experience in the end, including the $50 cash prize he got for coming in second.

“I’d do it again,” said Reid. “I’m shaking, my endorphin level is right up there, like I just got into a fight with 50 guys and won, so that was great.”

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