An estimated 35,000 to 40,000 people will gather in downtown Columbia on Sept. 7 and 8 to listen to Grammy Award-winning musicians and to watch nearly 50 barbecue teams compete for $15,000 in prize money.
It’s all part of the two-day Roots ‘n’ Blues ‘n’ BBQ Festival sponsored by Boone County National Bank, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary. The festival will showcase food and free music throughout The District, where people who attend will be able to walk around downtown without having to dodge traffic and without paying a cover charge.
Festival manager Pam Ogles said the idea is simple.
“It’s an opportunity to celebrate the shared roots between Boone County and Columbia,” Ogles said. “If you think about it,” she said, “every big celebration, at least in my family, always has music and food.”
As part of the festival, a barbecue contest, sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society, will be held in the Flat Branch Park area, and judged on Sept. 8. Around 50 teams will compete for the $15,000 in cash prizes; the festival is still accepting team and vendor applications, which are available for download at the festival’s Web site, rootsnbluesnbbq.com.
Food and drinks will be sold throughout the festival, although watching the contest and listening to the music will be free.
Three music stages will be set up, two along Eighth Street and one in Flat Branch Park. Festival workers have booked grass-roots performers of local and national acclaim and are “still booking a few more acts,” Ogles said. Performers will include Grammy Award-winners such as blues musician Chris Thomas King, the gospel group The Blind Boys of Alabama and featured artist and blues musician Taj Mahal. Talent with local roots will include the Chump Change Band, The Bel Airs and the Hilary Scott Band.
The bank estimates the event will attract between 35,000 and 40,000 people over the two-day period. Festival workers have received approval from the City Council and affected merchants for a Festival Footprint, an area of closed streets accessible only to pedestrians.
“We’re in the heat of the logistical planning,” Ogles said. As part of the process, festival organizers on June 4 won the approval of the City Council for a six-page sign plan that calls for more than 130 signs, including 10 electronic traffic billboards and 11 cross-street banners.
Festival planners are also looking into alternative means of transportation, such as buses and bike valets, and they met on Monday with an MU Administrative Services team regarding festival parking on campus.
Lorah Steiner, executive director of the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that agency will help promote the festival through advertising. The bureau is “very supportive” of the festival, she said, though she could offer no estimate of the potential economic impact, given that it’s a first-time event.
“This is a wonderful gift to the community,” Steiner said.