Lets keep the barbecue

Published 7:13 pm Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The effort it takes to manage a large event in a small community is astounding. For no pay, and bearing up under constant consternation, a few people each year for 16 years have volunteered thousands of hours to run the Blue Ridge Barbecue and Music Festival, a few all 16 years.

Every year, the chamber has mustered a small team of general management volunteers for 12-month duty, and begged and pleaded until a 700-member volunteer crew was found to staff the two-day event. The financial risk fell each year upon the chamber and, by reputation, upon these few volunteer managers, while the rest of us alternately enjoyed and groused about the product of their efforts.

Their fatigue is understandable, and their reasoning for cancellation perfectly rational. They say the event is not making enough money of late, certainly not enough for the effort expended, and it represents a financial, legal liability. The chamber wants to move in new directions.

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If we want to avoid cancellation, we must all bear responsibility for the solution. Over the years, as the barbecue began churning out profits 15 of its 16 years local government and vendors began charging for formerly donated services. The budget grew from $100,000 to $300,000, and each line item became essential.

But now, absorbing the shock of a mid-year cancellation, all sorts of budget decisions are suddenly being reevaluated. If the event is essentially a fundraiser, are there not some easy tweaks to costs that could turn a $12,000 profit back into $50,000? Can we help? We think the community should be given one year more to try.

The BBQ is now a well-oiled machine. Perhaps other fundraisers can be found, but this festival is much more. If anyone had told us in 1994 that the little chamber here would one day own one of the nations top barbecue festivals, we would have been ecstatic. If we dont all come together to try to keep it, we will regret it. JB