No ‘trash talking’ for recycling volunteers at BBQ festival

Published 1:12 pm Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Alex Leake mans a recycling station at the festival for his third year in a row. (photo submitted)

BBQ festival organizers still seek volunteers

In Polk County we don’t just talk trash – we do something about it.

Ashley Justice collects bottles and cans at the Blue Ridge BBQ festival. (photo submitted)

At the Blue Ridge BBQ and Music Festival, year after year, the most dedicated volunteers are the recyclers who stand watch over recycling stations, happily directing festival-goers to put their food scraps in one basket, their plates in another and their cups and bottles in another. It’s the efforts of these unsung heroes that result in an average annual savings of 13,000 pounds of waste diverted from landfill to recycling.

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Cindy Walker, chair of the recycling committee, said, “By catching our waste and sending it in the right direction, we save natural resources, create jobs and new materials, save precious landfill space and reduce pollution. It’s environmental leadership and it’s something everyone from our volunteers, to our workers, to our festival guests can feel good about. It’s the volunteers that make it happen,” she said. “They’re indispensable.”

The festival needs 98 recycling volunteers this year to assist the public in the “how to” of placing their items. Volunteers are needed throughout the festival: at the food tents, in Hog Heaven, at the River Stage, at central recycling and early Sunday morning for the final cleanup.

Wherever volunteers are stationed, the benefits are built in. Volunteers at the food tents in front of the Main Stage get to hear the live music – for free. Same with the River Stage site. And all you have to do is stand or sit and smile as you direct concert-goers which container to place their things in. A smile and a friendly “howdy” from a senior volunteer tells guests to the Foothills that Tryon really is the “Friendliest Town in the South.”

Whole families are known to volunteer. Alex Leake, 13, has been a loyal recycling volunteer for the past three years in a row. When Leake was 10, he asked his dad, long-time volunteer, Michael Leake, if he could help out at the festival. Being so young, he didn’t know where he could work, so his dad suggested he help with the recycling. According to Alex, “I thought it would be a good way to help our environment, and then I saw how everybody worked together as one for a great cause and I wanted to come back to the recycling each year after that.”

Hog Heaven volunteers get to walk around, talk to cookers and assist them sort their waste. Hog Heaven recycling volunteers bask in the aroma and see what cookers do – up close. Volunteers who chat cookers up may find themselves getting free samples of some of the best barbecue in America. Walker said she needs Hog Heaven volunteers all day, for both Friday and Saturday.

Finally, Walker needs volunteers early Sunday morning for the final cleanup. If you’ve ever driven past Harmon Field at noon on the Sunday after a festival and there’s no sign that 18,000 people were just there for the past two days, the Sunday morning volunteers are the reason. Sunday morning volunteers are given coffee, donuts and juice while they do the ‘Final Sweep.’

Like all volunteers, recycling volunteers get free admission to the festival, get fed, get a free tee shirt, water (of course), many pats on the back and, maybe most of all, the good feeling that comes from knowing they’re helping to save the environment.

The Blue Ridge Barbecue & Music Festival will be held at Harmon Field in Tryon on June 10 and 11. The event includes not only a cooking competition – sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society – and music (on two stages); but a juried craft fair with more than 50 artists and crafters; carnival rides and games; and, of course, some of the best barbecue in America.

Saturday’s special events include the third annual Rubber Ducky River Race, a classic car show and motorcycle “Hawg” Runs from Greenville and Asheville and ending at the Festival. Visit to learn more.