Touted as the "IE foodie weekend," the event begins today with a barbecue competition followed on Sunday by a food truck festival, the third held at the arena.
Sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, the IE Dixie Salsa BBQ Competition on Saturday will feature half a dozen teams vying for prizes and trophies. There will also be about a dozen food trucks.
"We were looking for something different that set us apart from the some of the other festivals," said Sue Oxarart, spokeswoman for the arena, about the addition of the competition.
This also marks the first time the event has been stretched out to two days, a move driven by the public, Oxarart said.
The IE Food Truck Fest will start Sunday.
Spread out around the perimeter of the arena's parking lot, the 48 vehicles will serve up everything from Spam burgers to Chinese tamales.
"People walked around and stayed the full six to eight hours of the festivals," Oxarart said about the first two food truck events.
Its popularity is due in part to a San Bernardino County ordinance, which prohibits food trucks from roaming the streets. While the food truck craze has taken over public hangouts in Los Angeles and Orange counties, it has remained quiet in the Inland Empire because of the ban.
Special events such as the one in Ontario are allowed and have drawn an average of 11,000 people, Oxarart said.
Both days will feature gourmet food, live music, entertainment, vendors and a kids zone, she said.
About 30 people on Friday were inside a tent at the arena's parking lot taking a three-hour course to be certified judges for Kansas City Barbeque Society, the competitive national cooking organization.
Kelly McIntosh, a representative with Kansas City Barbeque, said there will be more than 400 sanctioned competitions in the United States this year.
Of those, at least 40 will be in California, he said.
Those who took the course in Ontario on Friday will be allowed to judge any competition in the country, McIntosh said.
Participants of the IE Dixie Salsa BBQ Competition have been set up in the arena parking lot since Friday afternoon.
Red Hill Barbecue in Rancho Cucamonga is among the teams competing and will be led by Warren Price, whose family owns the restaurant.
"Slow and low," Price said about his game plan for the competition. "It keeps all the juices in it."
The 28-year-old said he got behind a barbecue as soon as he learned how to start a fire.
Price said he typically enters competitions in the summer and was pleased to have one nearby.
"It should be a good event. It has a good vibe," he said.
Organizers said it will be up to the competitors if they want to or have enough product for the public to be able to sample.
Like any Kansas City Barbeque Society event, entries will be scored based on a blind judging system, which means the judges will not know what teams they are judging.
"Someone could have a $50,000 barbecue or someone may just have two Webers, and the guy with the two Webers is just as likely to win," McIntosh said.
Tickets are $10 general admission.
Children who 6 years old and under are admitted free.
Parking is free.
Tickets may be purchased at Ticketmaster.com (plus fees) or at Citizens Business Bank Arena box office.
For more information, visit iefoodtruckfest.com.