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Smoldering music, smoky fare make a hit
Sarah Cole, 17, of Charleston entertains with her band at Blues and BBQ here Saturday. - photo by Photo by Seraine Page

The winners are...

People’s choice
• First place: Smokin’ Pig
• Runner-up – tie:  Islands Rhythm and JC’s BBQ

Best ribs
• First place:  Famous Funnel Cakes
• Second place:  JC’s BBQ

Best chicken

• First place:  Smokin’ Pig
• Runner-up: JC’s BBQ

Best pork butt
• First place:  Smokin’ Pig
• Runner-up: Butts & Brew

Overall winner
Butts & Brew

The best accompaniment to a night of smoldering blues music is a plate of juicy, smoked barbecue. Hinesville area residents enjoyed such a combination Saturday during the city’s eighth annual Blues & BBQ festival, hosted by the Hinesville Area Arts Council, in downtown Bradwell Park.
The event opened at 4 p.m., drawing about 2,500 attendees who listened to live music and sampled food from several vendors.
Despite the 90-degree weather, throngs of people wove their way through booths, gripping icy beverages to wash down samples of sticky barbecued pork.
Curtis Velasco wolfed down pulled pork from Vann’s Bar and Grill and had only one thing to say about chef Chris Daniels’ fare:  “Chris’ sauce is killer!”
After piles of meat had been pulled off smoking hot grills, a panel of six judges sampled the competitors’ offerings of chicken, ribs and pulled pork. It took about an hour and a half for the panel members to taste all the entries and to cast their votes based on presentation, taste and tenderness.
Festival-goers also voted for their favorites by purchasing a $3 wooden nickel that got them samples from each participating vendor. Attendees used their nickels to vote for their favorite vendors. Regular-sized meals also were available for those who wanted more than just a taste.
More than 100 people cast their nickels to select Smokin’ Pig as the people’s choice award winner. Smokin’ Pig co-owner Kevin Fabre enjoyed the weather and, especially, winning the audience’s approval.
“It’s always a good feeling when you get recognized by the people you’re serving there,” he said.
The overall winner, Butts and Brew, won a $200 check and a trophy. The company won by less than one-tenth of a point. The barbecue contest winners each received a $50 check and a trophy. Runners-up received a $25 check and a certificate.
Besides buying mounds of sticky barbecued meat, event-goers could also purchase beer, Italian ice, funnel cakes and potato salad.
Curt Bridgett, owner of Little Jimmy’s Italian Ice in Savannah, set up shop at the festival for a second time to enjoy the music and sell a rainbow of flavors for $2 per cup.
“I just love the people. They’re always walking around with smiles on their faces,” he said of the Hinesville event.
“Everyone is just happy,” Bridgett said.
If the scent of corn on the cob and barbecue smoke wasn’t enough to draw in a crowd, the live blues music brought bystanders to their feet.
Bill Lovell, a big fan of blues, sat at a long white table and listened to 17-year-old Sarah Cole perform.
“She’s got a lot of talent for someone her age,” said Lovell, who compared Lovell to Bonnie Raitt.
He said he attended a blue grass festival last weekend, but wasn’t too impressed with it.
“ Ya heard one, ya heard ’em all,” he said. “This one’s better.”
All proceeds from Blues & BBQ go to the Hinesville Area Arts Council, said Vicki Davis, director of the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority.
The HDDA and Fort Stewart’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation sponsored the event to help with expenses, including the cash awards. Other sponsors were involved.
Arts Council Chairwoman Leah Poole said she thought the event went over well and received thank you messages from the bands that came out to play.
Poole said arts council members got together to listen to demos of Sarah Cole & The Hawk, and Tommy Thunderfoot and the Accelerators  before selecting the groups to perform at the event.
Ben Robinson, another singer who performed, frequently sings at the Lunchtime Concert in the Park series in Hinesville, Poole said.
“I thought it was a great event,” she said. “It was very well attended. I think people really seemed to enjoy the entertainment.”

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