Big Barbecue Bash brings back the fun for ’09

A pair of cookers from the Lakehead Fred team get their food ready for judging and to sell to the public during the 2008 Big BBQ Bash. Lakehead Fred will bring his team back this year for the Saturday, May 9, event.

A pair of cookers from the Lakehead Fred team get their food ready for judging and to sell to the public during the 2008 Big BBQ Bash. Lakehead Fred will bring his team back this year for the Saturday, May 9, event.

Assistant County Mayor Dave Bennett and County Mayor Jerry Cunningham are taking it easy during the Mayoral Regatta at the Big BBQ Bash of 2008. The Regatta will be at 3 p.m. this year on Saturday, May 9.

Assistant County Mayor Dave Bennett and County Mayor Jerry Cunningham are taking it easy during the Mayoral Regatta at the Big BBQ Bash of 2008. The Regatta will be at 3 p.m. this year on Saturday, May 9.

Even tough economic times shouldn’t spoil a great party.

That’s the philosophy of Big BBQ Bash committee member David Dwyer. And Dwyer and the rest of the committee are making sure the tough times don’t stand in the way of fun, food and good fellowship.

The third annual event is scheduled for Saturday, May 9, at Springbrook Corporate Center on the property adjacent to the Alcoa Municipal Building.

Dwyer said that in this particularly tough year economically, volunteers, businesses and, most importantly, barbecue cookers are stepping up to participate or sponsor the event.

“It shows that, even in a recession, it’s hard to spoil a good party,” Dwyer said.

The price is certainly right for the audience: It’s free.

Dwyer said among changes for the event, organizers are planning to draw attention to the entertainment more than in the first two years.

“I think we’re going to highlight music more because that draws people,” he said. “The bands have followings.”

Dwyer said the quality of the music will be good. Several of the bands from the 2008 event asked to return. The bands this year are Slow Joe Crow, Soulfinger, The Retroholics, Neon Bloom and the Quorum.

The layout will be somewhat different at the bash as well. “We revamped the venue to have more space to have more fun,” Dwyer said.

Dwyer said committee member Chris Flynn has been working hard on planning the layout for the bash. There will be more vendors who each have a better view of the activities, which means the crowds have a better view of them and their wares.

“We now have more space for more fun,” Dwyer said. “It has gotten better and better each year. We are paying attention and correcting our mistakes and capitalizing on our successes.”

Dwyer said it is good seeing people compete and seeing people enjoy the competition. “It has grown so much every year,” he said. “There were over 5,000 people there last year.”

Bash co-chair Melissa Copelan said what stands out in her mind most about the competition is that participation hasn’t dropped off any since the event started.

“That’s very encouraging considering the current economic climate,” she said. “Sponsors are still willing to invest in the event and teams are willing to enter. There’s been no drop off. We’ve probably seen a little decline in the amount people can give for sponsorships, but there’s still very, very strong support in the community for what we’re doing. For me, that is the most encouraging part.”

Copelan said roughly 30 teams are competing in the barbecue contest and 11 vendors.

“The vendors are selling everything from milkshakes to corn dogs to funnel cakes,” she said. “Really, the only thing we’re waiting on is for all the community to come out and support us on May 9. We feel confident our attendance numbers will be just as much, if not more, than last year.”

The charities that benefit are hoping for a great turnout as well. While each barbecue team will pick their charities to receive half of their prize money should they win, the Big BBQ Bash charities are Blount County Community Campus Initiative through the Helen Ross McNabb Center and New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center.

Copelan said their special guest will return for the 2009 Bash. “Chris Lilly will be doing his VIP cooking school on May 8, which is by invitation only for our sponsors, but he will also be on hand Saturday, May 9, to do debut his new cookbook. He will be selling “Big Bob Gibson’s Barbecue book: Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary Barbecue Joint.’”

Lilly is the award-winning head chef at Bib Bob Gibson’s barbecue restaurant in Decatur, Ala. “We’re thrilled to have him here,” said Copelan. “This is the third year he’s been to our event, and he thoroughly enjoys coming ever year.”

The Big BBQ Bash was started in 2007 as a Leadership Blount Class of 2007 legacy project. It has continued with a committee made up primarily of members of the 2007 class.

Categories for the competition include chicken, pulled pork, ribs and the Anything But category. Anything But is anything but chicken, pulled pork and ribs, but it must be cooked on site on a grill or smoker. The Anything But category winner receives a trophy but no prize money.

There will also be a Grand Champion this year. The Grand Champion win is based on a total of points in all categories entered. More than $12,000 will be awarded in prize money, with half of that going to the charities of each winner’s choosing.

There third annual Bash also includes the popular Mayoral Regatta. The Mayoral Regatta, a canoe race on the pond at Springbrook Corporate Center, is an offbeat extra event organizers resurrected where they ask local elected officials and community and business leaders to have fun.

“It’s no-holds-barred race to paddle to the finish line,” she said. “It’s a favorite and will definitely continue this year.”

For more information on the Big Barbecue Bash, go to www.blountbbqbash.com.

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