COLUMBIA — The smell of barbecue and the sound of blues music saturated the streets of downtown Columbia at the fourth annual Roots ’N’ Blues ’N’ BBQ Festival.
About 700 volunteers, a group of interns from Thumper Entertainment and the festival’s steering committee worked to make the two-day event possible. The event preparations began Wednesday when stages were set up and vendor trucks began arriving Friday morning.
The New Belgium Bike Parade kicked off the festival Friday evening in front of Shakespeare’s Pizza on Ninth Street. The parade included the Missouri High Steppers drill team.
All about the music
Shemekia Copeland opened the festival Friday night. She was followed by music from Tab Benoit, Del McCoury Band, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Taj Weekes & Adowa and Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi throughout the weekend.
T.J. Wheeler and students from Grant and West Boulevard elementary schools were a big hit with the crowd. According to a Missourian blog post, Wheeler worked with students and teachers to incorporate music education into children’s lives. The group sang songs like “Proud Mary” and “Old Man River," and a few written for the festival by Wheeler.
“We’re always trying to improve the fan experience,” Betsy Farris, president of Thumper Entertainment, said.
This year the State Farm King of the Roots competition was held, which is the festival's take on battle of the bands. BJ Allen and Blue Voodoo, who performed Saturday morning on the MPIX stage on Locust Street, won the competition.
The festival also held the Fletcher Honda Como Songwriting Contest, won by Jordan Thomas, an MU student. His song, “Big Small Town”, will be produced by Mansion Studios and used to promote the city of Columbia.
The VIP Whole Hog Lounge at the Forge and Vine grew in popularity this year. The lounge gave fans the opportunity to enjoy barbecue from Burger’s Smokehouse and interact with the artists.
“The VIP lounge is what the festival is all about,” Farris said.
Grilling up champion barbecue
Sixteen Columbia teams competed in the barbecue competition, including the MU BBQ Team. According to a previous Missourian report, the team is headed by Trevor Nichols, 22, with 13 undergraduate students and two graduate students. Nichols, a food science major, said he takes a scientific approach to their barbecue.
Judging for the barbecue competition took place from noon to 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Winners were announced at 3 p.m. Saturday at the KOPN stage in Flat Branch Park.
4 Smokin’ Butts was crowned the grand champion, receiving a $2,500 check and a hand-painted guitar.
Lisa Bartlett, owner of Artlandish Gallery on Walnut Street, crafted the trophies, along with 45 ribbons for second through tenth places, according to a previous Missourian report. Plowboys BBQ from Concordia won the title of reserved grand champion. Their prize was a $1,500 check and a hand-painted guitar by Bartlett.
Fourteen different vendors lined the streets of downtown, offering more than just barbecue. According to a Missourian blog post, homemade chips were the best-seller for Lutz’s BBQ from Jefferson City. Ed’s Food boasted shish kebabs and Wilson’s Garden Center sold fresh fruit along Cherry Street, according to a Missourian blog post.
Hoss’s Market & Rotisserie sold pulled pork and brisket sandwiches, ribs and bratwursts to the hungry crowd. The Missouri Pork Association handed out free samples to listeners at the KOPN Community Stage at Flat Branch Park.
Sizable portions of downtown streets were closed Friday afternoon through Saturday night, but people seemed to avoid the area, said Columbia Police Department spokeswoman Jill Wieneke.
The police had a pretty good parking plan, which included four downtown parking garages for public use, Wieneke said. The new parking garage at Fifth and Walnut streets will be open for the festival next year, making parking even easier, she said.
Forty officers were on duty throughout the weekend, patrolling the area and enforcing the safety of festival-goers. There was no vandalism of vendor carts overnight or crowd control problems during the festival, Wieneke said.
Two men were arrested and ticketed for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, and a man was taken into protective custody because of intoxication, she said.
“I want to thank Boone County National Bank, the fans and everyone who contributed their time, effort and resources for the festival,” Farris said.
Thumper Entertainment has already begun planning for next year’s Roots ’N’ Blues ’N’ BBQ Festival, which will be held Sept. 9 and 10, 2011.