A popular bluegrass festival and barbecue cook-off is moving to Evans.
The third annual Papa Joe’s Banjo-B-Que, a two-day festival, will be held at Evans Towne Center Park May 25-26.
The festival, which attracted national musical acts and 72 competition barbecue cooking teams last year, was held at the Hippodrome in North Augusta the past two years, said Christy Beckham, an event organizer with sponsor AB Beverage in Evans.
“Beda Johnson, when she was at the CVB of Columbia County, she’s the one who reached out to me about moving it,” Beckham said. “She was the head-hunter really in pulling us over.”
The festival is a sanctioned Kansas City Barbeque Society event and is a stop on the Great American BBQ tour and the Kingsford Points Chase tour.
The festivities include two stages and two days of live entertainment, including Drive By Truckers performing May 26. Competing barbecue cooking teams are being limited to 60 this year.
The park is smaller than the Hippodrome, but provides more utilities and infrastructure.
“It is very convenient for us,” Beckham said of the park, which is near the AB Beverage headquarters on Industrial Park Drive. “Logistically, there’s more power, water, access to things than there are at the Hippodrome.”
Organizers previously had to provide lots of generators and other equipment for the event.
“It really just cost us a fortune to do it over there,” Beckham said. “We loved having it at the horse park. We loved how big it is and how wide open it is and how the feel of it actually worked well for our event. But it just became very expensive.”
The festival is named for Joe Pond, second-generation owner of AB Beverage, who died of cancer in 2006. Banjo-B-Que was started to benefit the Joseph R. Pond Memorial Foundation, which in turn donates to local charities through the CSRA Community Foundation.
“In honor of him, Banjo-B-Que is all things that he likes,” Beckham said. “He loved barbecue. He loved bluegrass. He loved horses. He loved everything that we have at our event. ... We’ve all kind of grown to love these things as well.”
Many of the barbecue teams sell their food while vying for more than $40,000 in prize money.
“It’s great barbecue,” Beckham said. “It’s a two-day festival and we want it to feel like a destination.”
The festival isn’t only about bluegrass and barbecue. Beckham said though about half of the people attending the festival are from out of town, she likes the family base surrounding the Evans park.
“It is for the community,” said Beckham, adding that the festival also includes lots of children’s activities like a petting zoo and pig races. “We want it to be a family-friendly event.”
Beckham said those interested in getting a little more involved can sign up for the Kansas City Barbeque Society class to become a certified judge. The class is scheduled to be held locally on April 12 and costs $85.
For information about the festival or class, contact Beckham at (706) 855-8555 or visit www.banjobque.com.