COLUMBIA — Roots 'N' Blues 'N' BBQ Festival is about to have a party that would make any other 5-year-old jealous.
Festival organizers anticipate as many as 52,000 to attend the event, which is scheduled for 5 to 11 p.m. Sept. 21 and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sept. 22. Along with music and the annual barbecue contest, the event will feature races, beer and plenty of food vendors.
Featured musical acts this year include Al Green, Wanda Jackson, and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, and 65 teams have signed up for the barbecue competition.
The festival has grown considerably since it was first held in 2007, and so have ticket prices. General admission prices are $55 for one day and $75 for two (children under 12 get in free). Mediacom customers who present an August or September bill at the Blue Note box office will get general admission tickets for half price.
Festival director Jessica Brown said she's certain that folks who buy tickets will get their money's worth.
"Our ticket prices are directly connected to how big our acts are," Brown said. With all the acts put together, Brown said that the admission fee amounted to a cost of "$2 and some change" per act. Considering that most of these features have high-priced tickets at other venues, that's a pretty reasonable price in Brown's eyes.
"In order to bring a bigger and better festival each year, you have to have some way to sustain yourself," Brown said. "We want to keep bringing it back next year."
Attendees who want to get the full experience can upgrade to the Whole Hog Pass which combines the classiness of being a VIP with the local down-to-earth feel of a few locally cooked barbecue meals. Whole Hogs can pay $125 for Friday, $195 for Saturday or $225 for both days in order to receive access to upfront stage viewing and a lounge, private restrooms, bars, Whole Hog Taxis and reserved parking.
Whole Hogs seeking relaxation also can receive massages in the Zen Pig Tent at select times on both days.
For those who want to keep it simple, there will be designated areas for lawn chairs and for people to stand.
"We're always trying to improve, and we saw that people were bringing their chairs and kind of leaving them," Brown said. "A lot of festivals have a chair line so we did that last year for the very first time. Those that were sitting were able to be in an area where people were not standing directly in front of them, and we feel that our artists were feeling very good about what was happening too."
Brown reiterated: "Chairs are absolutely welcome, but we ask that you stay behind the line."
In addition to the improvements made to the lineup and the general admission area, Roots 'N' Blues also plans to add more water fountains and sections of the Katy Trail to the 10k and the half marathon.
Organizers also plan to enhance accessibility by repainting curbs and attaching reflective strips for safety. Because of an accident last year involving a member of the festival's accessibility committee falling at an insufficiently marked curb, Brown said they have walked through the streets and double-checked for signs of danger.
"It's really good to be able to make something like that effective," Brown said. "Something happened and a citizen was affected by it and we were able to make the city aware of it, too."
Meanwhile, artists continue to decorate city sidewalks as part of the festival's storm drain art project, which is designed to make people more aware of pollution that reaches streams through the drains. The artwork will have an educational theme and will remind viewers not to litter before rain washes it away.
As part of the deal to allow the festival to take place in public streets, the city also received 300 free tickets. The value of those tickets is estimated at $22,500, according to a report on the festival presented to the Columbia City Council.
"We've not only benefited the festival weekend, but the city, too," Brown said.
In return, the city is waiving fees for approximately $20,000 in public safety services.
The city also will spend a little more than $11,000 on trash and recycling services, according to the report.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.