Barbecue, craft beer festival will benefit Rotary Club Labor Day weekend
A barbecue and craft beer festival coming to East Ellijay will benefit one of the county’s primary civic groups, while also introducing a new type of event that’s become popular in other north Georgia communities.
“We wanted to have an event here in Ellijay that would be something fun for people to do and to help raise money,” said Rotary Club of Gilmer County member Jason Payne.
The Rotary Club will receive a share of proceeds from the Smokin’ Up the Mountains fest scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 3, from noon to 8 p.m., in the grassy field near the East Ellijay Walmart shopping area. The field is between Longhorn Steakhouse and the Comfort Inn building site just off Highway 515.
“We picked that area because it will give us plenty of room for parking and the festival. Also, people who don’t already know about it will be able to see it when they’re driving through that busy Labor Day weekend. It just doesn’t have a (physical) address,” said Payne.
Gary Lamb, the man behind the BBQ and Brews banner, said the festival isn’t just for adults even though food and beer are its two main draws. Lamb, a Cherokee County pastor who presented the first BBQ and Brews in Canton last April, said he strives to make the events family friendly.
“We don’t advertise it as being a big party. We want it to be something you can bring your kids to and the whole family can enjoy,” said Lamb. “We’ll have a huge free area for kids, and children 10 and under are admitted free.”
The Canton festival, which Lamb said drew almost 12,000 to that city’s downtown area, assisted ForCanton, a Cherokee County nonprofit that provides food, clothing and housing assistance.
Community partner organizations receive 50 percent of event profits, Lamb said.
“Generosity is one of our values. For everything we do, we partner with a local organization. They provide volunteers and connections to the local community,” Lamb said. “We love creating an environment where community can happen and a festival like this is a great opportunity for that. We like to say ‘Eat barbecue, drink beer, do good.’”
BBQ and Brews has also committed to making a donation to the Gilmer Community Food Pantry.
“In order for us to use the field, (the owner) wanted us to donate to the food pantry. We’ll be making a $1,000 donation to them,” Lamb confirmed.
Where there’s smoke ...
The marriage of locally-prepared barbecue and craft beer has gained popularity as a festival attraction in recent years with booms in both the microbrew industry and reality TV shows about competition cooking like BBQ Pitmasters and Barbecue University.
Lamb is confident this kind of event can draw interest in both bigger cities and smaller communities like East Ellijay.
“Our niche is small towns, where people want something new like this to do,” he said. “Where else can you go for 5 bucks a person to enjoy live music, let your kids play and enjoy great craft beer and barbecue?”
The admission price will get you into the festival, while beer, food and merchandise are additional purchases.
As of Monday, Georgia barbecue vendors who’ve signed up to be there include: Smokin’ Mo’s of Alpharetta, Angelfire 7 of Canton, Simply Q of Monroe and C-Bo’s BBQ of Snellville.
Craft beer options include Fannin Brewing Company of Blue Ridge, Cherry Street Brewing of Cumming, Dry County Brewery of Kennesaw, Jailhouse Brewing Company of Hampton and Reformation Brewery of Woodstock.
“Some vendors will have food trucks and trailers, while others will be under tents. Everything will be barbecue (in some form) or barbecue related,” said Lamb.
Both seasoned pros and backyard grillers are welcomed to participate in a competition sanctioned by the Georgia Barbecue Association.
“It will actually be the first event of the association’s season, which starts Labor Day weekend,” said Lamb. “You don’t have to be on a pro team. If you just like cooking in your backyard, you can enter in the ‘cooking for fun’ division.”
Competition barbecue fans will recognize some of the participants from TV appearances.
“Ross Royal and the Rescue Smokers will be there. They won season five of Barbecue Pitmasters and 92 BBQ just won an episode of Smoked,” said Lamb. “James Thomason, with Mountain Man Beards, is on the Fox show Home Free. He’ll have a booth there and will also be doing a beard competition.”
Payne and Lamb both hope the partnership between the two organizations will result in the barbecue fest becoming a recurring annual event.
“Our goal for this year is just to earn the respect of the city, so when we come back next year we’ll have a little (credibility). I think East Ellijay is going to be really pleased,” Lamb said.
Funds raised will allow the Rotary Club to donate to several nonprofits and causes in the county.
“We’ve done a golf tournament (fundraiser) before, but no large festival or anything like this,” said Payne.
“Our motto is ‘service above self,”’ he continued. “We make donations to the Boys and Girls Club, the Kids Kottage, Special Olympics, Appalachian Children’s Center, the Ferst Foundation, Gilmer Learning Center, Family Connection and the food pantry (among others). We have a dinner each year that’s free for all veterans and we also provide Christmas gifts and a party for the foster children of Gilmer County.”
Lamb already has BBQ and Brews dates lined up for 2017.
“We have one coming up in Roswell and there will be one in Woodstock next year. As of right now, we’ve got six festivals (planned) for next year,” he said.