Meeting planned Wednesday to discuss barbecue festival

Published 3:45 pm Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Some Blue Ridge Barbecue Festival Steering Committee members who want to see the festival continue may get a chance to share their views at a meeting tomorrow with the Carolina Foothills Chamber of Commerce.
Peter Eisenbrown, the entertainment director for the festival over the past 14 years and a leader of the effort to save the festival, says he and others plan to meet with officials from the Carolina Foothills Chamber of Commerce. The chamber board voted unanimously last week to end the 16-year festival, saying it no longer produces sufficient profit.
Eisenbrown says the chamber agreed to hold the meeting to hear from people who have been directly involved with the festival and are opposed to the chambers decision. The chamber did not comment on the meeting.
The meeting is not expected to be open to the public and is reportedly invitation only.
Eisenbrown says he hopes some officials with the county and area towns will attend and offer support for continuing the festival. He planned to appeal to county officials for support at the commissioners meeting last night.
Eisenbrown says he believes the chamber should have held such an “exploratory” meeting with the steering committee and local leaders before it decided to end the festival. He says hes not sure whether a meeting now can save the festival, but he hopes it will produce ideas the chamber will consider.
He says he understands the chamber would need substantial help or some new arrangement that would ease its burden. Chamber officials have said they believe their time is better spent hosting a variety of smaller fundraisers that pose less financial risk and have more profit potential. They say the festival has become so large that it leaves little time for them to support and promote area businesses, the chambers principal function.
“Theres got to be a groundswell on this and maybe some fresh bold ideas and people who say, Ill step up and help,” says Eisenbrown. “Maybe if theres enough support, they might reconsider.”
If the chamber is willing to reverse its decision, Eisenbrown says it would have to act quickly since theres only about five months before the festival would take place.
Given the short period of time, he says he believes the chamber is in the best position to host the festival this year, but it could potentially have a partner for the event beginning next year or even sell the festival to another entity.
“If something doesnt happen this week I think it wont happen,” says Eisenbrown. “These people involved with the festival are my friends so this is no personal attack. Weve just got to create a dialogue that should have occurred before (the decision was made).”

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