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Chamber plans BBQ festival ‘as big as ever’

Fortified by an overwhelming show of community support, the Board of Directors of the Carolina Foothills Chamber of Commerce voted last week to hold the 17th Annual Blue Ridge Barbecue & Music Festival on June 11 and 12 at Harmon Field in Tryon.
“After three weeks of hard work budget cutting and securing financial backing, we have a festival that will be as big as ever, manageable for the chamber and a great showcase for our area,” said Andy Millard, chamber president.
“I have been humbled and gratified over the last few weeks at how our community has pulled together to make this event happen for all of us.”
According to festival chair Dale Musselwhite, the steering committee was able to reduce the festivals overall budget by 25 percent without affecting the main attractions and overall experience for festival-goers.
“Were building on what works best for the festival and trimming the fat,” said Musselwhite. “Cook teams and festival-goers will enjoy the same festival they have come to love over the years; well just be running a much tighter operation behind the scenes.”
As always, this years festival will feature Hog Heaven, with more than 80 cook teams from across the United States; live music on two stages; a Kids Fun Park; Foothills Craft Fair and much more.
It was three weeks ago that the board voted to cancel the popular annual event citing burnout of key volunteers, financial risk to the chamber and insufficient return on investment for an event that had grown to attract more than 20,000 people to Polk County each year.
“Within days we began hearing from people across the community who were willing to step-up and do their part to keep the event going,” said Millard. “When we sent out the call that we needed $75,000 in pledges for a rainy day fund, we had what we needed to move forward within a week. ”
As of yesterday, the chamber had received $83,000 in pledges, and the board has raised the goal to $100,000.
Pledgees are not obligated to pay anything unless there is a financial loss, and then only a proportional share of any loss up to $1,000 each.
Millard also said the chamber still plans to transition the festival away from the chamber in 2011 so it no longer bears the full responsibility and risk. He encourages anyone with ideas or suggestions or anyone willing to help make that transition to contact chamber executive director Janet Sciacca.
“Overall, this has just been a great experience,” says Millard, referring to the past few weeks of turmoil surrounding the fate of the festival. “Weve been very gratified by the public support, although it was a stressful time.
“We heard the community loud and clear and we appreciate their willingness to communicate with us.”