2010 BBQ underway, but future after still uncertain

Published 3:51 pm Friday, May 14, 2010

The Blue Ridge Barbecue is back, but its future after this year is still up in the air.
Citing the financial risks and drain on the chambers volunteers and staff, the Carolina Foothills Chamber of Commerce cancelled the 16-year-old event in early January.
But the community rallied to save it. The chamber board relented and offered to consider continuing one more year, if the financial risk could be reduced. By the end of January, the chamber had community pledges of up to $83,000 for a “rainy day” fund, money which only be called in case of a financial loss on the 2010 event.
However, for the long term, chamber president Andy Millard said the chamber still wanted to “transition the event to a new, non-profit entity, independent from the chamber.”
Since that time, no real progress has been made toward seeing the festival continue into 2011.
“We have a person interested in taking over the event, but it is by no means final,” Millard said. “We are also exploring options for sponsoring organizations for it. But there has been no interest or suggestions for organizations expressing interest in doing it., so it will probably have to continue as a new, stand alone, non-profit entity.”
Millard said most of the issues raised by the transition will not come clear until after this years festival, which is scheduled June 11 and 12 at Harmon Field.
However, Millard said the chambers BBQ committee met recenntly and a “goodly number” of those working on the BBQ this year expressed interest in moving forward to volunteer to operate the festival again with a new organization.
“A goodly number also didnt raise their hands,” he said. “It is going to take ore than a chairman. It is going to take a chairman and a dedicated group of volunteers.”
Millard did say that “it is pretty well established” that the chamber is not interested in running the festival past this year.
“We might make $1 million and change our minds,” he joked. “But the issues are still in place: the risk, the overuse of chamber resources, personnel and financial. We need to be able to devote those resources elsewhere.”
The chamber will be holding a strategic planning retreat in September, Millard said, and will be seeking ways to be more involved in the positive growth of the Foothills economy. He said expects the BBQ will receive a full discussion at that time, and none too soon. The BBQ operating committee typically begins working in earnest each November.
“One thing is sure,” Millard said. “We are going to have a bang up event this year.”

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