Smokin' good time

Saturday, September 8, 2007 | 5:13 p.m. CDT; updated 8:32 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008
Kim and Duke Fennewald sit in the middle of Eighth Street during the Roots 'N Blues 'N BBQ Festival.

11:25 a.m. SATURDAY

EIGHTH STREET — D-Dee Stidham stands hunched over an enormous copper kettle.

With a matching copper paddle in hand, she expertly scoops up bundles of still-steaming popcorn. She gives the bag a forceful spin, ties it shut and throws it on top of the already enormous pile of kettle corn-filled bags. The mountain of kettle corn and the table it’s resting on separate D-Dee from the festival that’s just beginning to wake up from a night’s rest.

It isn’t long before a steady slew of people begin to approach the table, mouths watering and Blues Bucks in hand. D-Dee yells for her husband, Sammy Stidham, who’s sitting on a small wooden chair in front of the booth, to come under the tent and help.

“Besides all the people I get to meet, bossing Sammy around is the best part of this job,” says D-Dee, still scooping.

The Stidhams were in Jefferson City seven years ago for a Fourth of July celebration when they were inspired to buy their own popcorn- popping equipment and get into the kettle corn business. Ever since, they’ve spent their summers traveling around Missouri to various festivals as D-Dee’s Kettle Korn Co., building oiles of kettle corn one kernel at a time.

The Stidhams set up shop every time her hometown of Columbia has a festival.

“If it’s a festival, people expect their kettle corn,” D-Dee said. “You wouldn’t believe how many people told me that this was their breakfast today.”


12:20 p.m. SATURDAY

FLAT BRANCH PARK — Brenda Garnett and Julie Ford are parked in front of the Verizon Wireless Showcase Stage in Flat Branch Park. Their lawn chairs are brand-new, purchased just for the festival. A third empty chair is saved for Garnett’s husband, who has gone to check out the barbecue competition across the street.

The three live in Paris, Mo., where they heard about the festival on the news. They staked out the Boone County National Bank Stage on Broadway on Saturday night, staying at the Super 8 Motel so they could return for today’s events.

“I’m a fan of any kind of good music,” Ford says as the bluegrass band Ironweed begins soundchecking their equipment.

Garnett and Ford spy a couple people with roasted corn, which looks delicious.

“You know, that’s what they use to fatten hogs,” Garnett says.

“Just what we need,” Ford replies, laughing.


12:30 p.m. Saturday

EIGHTH STREET — Shirley Harper shifts her weight to the right and pokes her friend, Carol Harlow, in the arm.

“Will you look at that little girl’s britches? Someone must have sewed on that lace by hand,” Harper says.

Harper and Harlow have been friends since fifth grade, when they were in the same class in Mexico, Mo. Both women moved to Centralia in their early twenties and raised families.

“Now that the grandkids are finally older, we spend our time going to all the festivals and celebrations around these parts,” Harper says.

The women make sure to sample the food at the festivals they attend and always perch themselves where they can hear the music. But what they really come for is the high-quality people-watching every festival offers.

“People-watching is what you do when you’re from a small town, and an event like this brings in such a diverse crowd, we could spend hours on this ledge and never get bored,” Harper says.

Harlow spots a young women in a bright purple dress that stops about six inches above her knees. Harper doesn’t need a nudge, she’s already staring at Harlow with wide eyes, waiting for a response.

“It’s funny how your eyes can do all the same talking that a person’s mouth can,” Harper says with a grin.


1:00 p.m. SATURDAY

EIGHTH STREET AND BROADWAY — Faye Hill is perched on the ledge of a planter, watching as Primitive Soul puts on a high-energy show.

“Anything that has to do with jazz or blues, I love,” Hill says, swaying to the music.

Hill and her father arrived at 11 a.m. to hear the Serious Blues Band, which Hill enjoyed.

“They were serious,” Hill says enthusiastically. “They were good!”

Hill’s father sits in a red-and-white-striped lawn chair in front of the planter. As the music pulses through the speakers, Hill says, “I wasn’t planning on staying all day today, but he seems like he’s having a good time.”


2:00 p.m. SATURDAY

EIGHTH STREET — Almeta Butler is taking a break by the Rooten Tooten Barbecue stand on Eighth Street. She slept for two hours last night.

“I stayed up all night cookin’,” Butler says. “All night cookin’ pork and beef brisket.”

It’s only 2 p.m., but her stand has already sold out of pulled pork, beef brisket and pork steaks. She’s taking a short break before running out to replenish her supplies.

“I couldn’t fantasize for sure how much I’d need. The count was higher than I anticipated,” Butler says. “I underestimated my quota. I underestimated! For a magnitude like this, you have to have two grills.”

She gets up. There are still nine hours of festival to go and thousands of people to feed.


3:20 p.m. SATURDAY

EIGTH AND ELM STREETS — The line at The Jamaican Jerk Hut is four people wide and a block long.

Some people waiting in line laugh, some hold cell phones and some peer into the crowd. But most of them stand still, facing forward, waiting to turn their Blues Bucks into Jamaican barbecue.

Rex Scott is a blur of motion: a bright yellow shirt bobbing in and out of the hut, hopping from grill to grill, tending to the meat with practiced ease. His personality is at least as loud as his attire. Smoke rushes from the grill as he lifts the lid and bellows something to the person taking orders.

Barbecue stands fill downtown Columbia. The amount of smoked meat could be measured by the ton.

But the Jerk Hut sticks out with its Carribean flavor.

“The spicy kind of creeps up on you,” Scott says.


4:10 p.m. SATURDAY

SPARKY’S HOMEMADE ICE CREAM PARLOR — Dick Schaffer has made some sacrifices to be here. A Clever native, Schaffer has been attending Springfield’s blues festival since it started, but he’s missing it to be here for the Roots ’N Blues ’N BBQ Festival.

This weekend’s musical lineup is what attracted him to Columbia, and he seems happy with his decision.

“I like the spirit,” he says.

He’s taking a break from the music right now to enjoy a blueberry ice cream cone. He sits at a table by the window, looking out over the constant stream of foot traffic flowing down Ninth Street.

“It’s gotten a lot more crowded,” he says.

Despite a long history of attending similar festivals across the country, Schaeffer’s was caught off guard by great new bands.

“(There’s) almost too much to see,” he says. “But that’s good.”


4:55 p.m. SATURDAY

CHERRY AND EIGHTH STREETS — A tiger and a princess sit on the curb eating a funnel cake across from the Funnel Cake Booth.

The tiger’s face is bright orange with a white center. Her silky whiskers are black with spots of glitter around her eyes. Even her hair is orange.

This tiger’s name is Jazz White, a fourth-grader at Lee Elementary School. This temporary feline’s favorite musical is, in fact, “Cats.”

The princess’ hair is streaked with pink. She has glitter on her face and jewels around her eyes.

Her name is Olivia Huggans, a third-grader at Parkade Elementary School.

The two friends and neighbors had their faces painted at the face painting booth near Peace Park.

So far today, they have listened to music, stood in line for funnel cakes and eaten fried Twinkies. But the fun isn’t stopping at the festival. The girls have a sleepover planned tonight at Olivia’s house.

“We do it practically every weekend,” Jazz says, with a smile on her feline face.


5:25 p.m. SATURDAY

PEACE PARK — In the shade of the giant tree at the edge of Peace Park, Bryce Atkins and his twin daughters, Ember and Aubrey, are eating hot dogs.

The girls are both wearing decorative cowboy boots their mom found for them online. Ember’s are pink, her favorite color, and Aubrey’s are brown because they didn’t have her favorite color, red. The boots each have plastic stars embedded in the material that light up when they walk. The girls demonstrate their illuminating shoes by stomping on the ground.

The kindergarteners go to school in south Callaway County, but they live in Columbia. The trio is planning to have some watermelon at the booth nearby, then get some ice cream. Ember says she likes all kinds of ice cream.

“Except raspberry,” she says.

Aubrey said her favorite part of the day was getting to climb the tree now shading the happy family.

“I got pretty high,” Aubrey says.


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