It’s BBQ time

Published 12:42 pm Friday, June 13, 2008

&bsp;The tents are up for the vendors, crafters and visitors, the music stages are set, and the barbecue teams are firing up their cookers.

Polk County&squo;s biggest event of the year returns today with more than 80 cookers from across the country and about 25,000 visitors expected to be in Tryon for the&bsp; annual Blue Ridge Barbecue & Music Festival.

Steep gas prices didn&squo;t deter the competition teams, including many regulars and some new ones, from making the trip here for what&squo;s officially recognized as the North Carolina State Barbecue Championship.

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Gates open for the festival at 11 a.m. today at Harmon Field. The festival will continue until 11 p.m. tonight, and open again tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The festival, organized by the Polk County Chamber of Commerce, is celebrating its 15th year, and again is offering plenty for everyone.

Nearly 30 musical groups, presenting a wide range of styles, will perform at two stages throughout the festival. The music schedule begins at 11 a.m. both days.

&dquo;On the main stage Friday night, in addition to the irresistibly bluesy-sexy voice of Rosie Ledet and the infectious Zydeco beat of her &squo;Playboys,&squo; we&squo;ve got Greenville&squo;s own horn-driven, funky band known as &squo;The Work,&squo;&dquo; says Peter Eisenbrown, who coordinates the festival&squo;s entertainment.

On Saturday night, says Eisenbrown, the main stage will feature Mike Farris &dquo;and his spirit-moving, powerful songs punctuated with bursts of horns and slide guitar, followed by the uninhibited, unpredictable, musically dazzling sounds of the The Waybacks.&dquo;

Other acts include The Lone Derangers, Bucktown Kickback, Wink Keziah, Delux Motel, Silver Travis, Bill Noonan Band, Geoff Achison & The Souldiggers, Sol Driven Train and Tater.

&dquo;We&squo;ve got favorite groups returning by popular demand like &squo;The Waybacks,&squo; who close for us on Saturday night,&dquo; says Eisenbrown, &dquo;and newcomers to Tryon, such as &squo;Rosie Ledet and the Zydeco Playboys,&squo; who will take the Friday night crowd by storm.&dquo;

The Foothills Craft Fair is back this year for the festival, showcasing the work of more than 50 crafters. Each item at the fair must be handmade by the exhibiting artisan, giving visitors an opportunity to talk with the crafters and learn about the artistic process.

A Kids and Teens Fun Park is also back again, featuring many rides, and Beach Bingo is scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m. on Friday and from 6 to 10 p.m. on Saturday

Late in the evening on both nights of the festival Zambelli Internationale will provide a big fireworks display.

Of course, many of the visitors will come for the food, especially the barbecue, and they will have numerous choices. Food and drink vendors were already lining up yesterday morning around the track at Harmon Field. The list of vendors, offering everything from funnel cakes and ice cream to sweet potatoes and of course barbecue, even includes for the first time an all vegeterian vendor called &dquo;Party in a Pita.&dquo;

Brenda Bradshaw, the public relations director for the festival, notes that this year&squo;s vendors also include Cool Smoke, which has the coveted distinction of being the current Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) 2007 Team of the Year.

&dquo;Team of the Year selection is made based on how well the teams have done in KCBS sanctioned competitions over the entire past year,&dquo; says Bradshaw. &dquo;These guys are really great.&dquo;

Cool Smoke has competed at the Blue Ridge festival the past three years, but this is the first time the team has offered its barbecue for sale to the public. Last year Cool Smoke took a second in pork ribs, third in brisket and fifth overall in Tryon.

Tuffy Stone of Cool Smoke says Harmon Field and Tryon offers a beautiful venue for the event and he enjoys returning each year. He says this year will offer a challenge participating in both the competition and working as a vendor, but his team&squo;s first focus will be the vending he says., last year&squo;s overall winner, is back this year to defend its Grand Champion title. Byron Chism and his team from Florida swept the Pork, Pork Ribs and Brisket categories last year.

Several teams from the local area, including The A-Team, B4BBQ, Butts-n-Breasts, Drunken Parrot heads, Foothills Mountain Bar-B-Que, Funk Q & The Pig You Rode In On, and Mountain View BBQ are competing this year.

The competitors are vying for more than $27,000 in prizes at the event that is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Festival.

Judging will take place at 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Judges Pavilion, the open air gym, and winners will be announced later&bsp; at the main stage.

Competition categories include Chicken, Pork, Pork Ribs, Beef Brisket, Whole Hog, Booth, and &dquo;Anything But.&dquo; The top North Carolina team in the competition will win the Governor&squo;s Trophy.

The festival is continuing its &dquo;Going Green Initiative&dquo; and encouraging recycling at 15 waste/recycling centers throughout the festival grounds.

Parking is free for the festival and trams are available to take visitors from the parking area.

For more information, visit&bsp;