The winds were a little blustery Saturday and brought with them dark, threatening clouds. Rather than prompting local residents to stay home, though, something in the winds drew folks to downtown Hinesville. It was the sound of good music and the smell of great barbecue emanating from the Hinesville Area Arts Council’s 11th annual Blues and BBQ festival.
The event started at 1 p.m., but the 10 teams vying for the best barbecue prizes fired up their smokers at first light.
Danny Peller with The Liberty Boys said it was his first time competing at Blues & BBQ. He checked his ribs before wrapping them in foil and putting them back in the smoker. One of his sous chefs, Micah Donaldson, district director for the Coastal Georgia Council Atlantic District of the Boy Scouts of America, sliced off a small sample from a rack of ribs.
“Almost perfect,” he said.
There were five categories in all — ribs, chicken, Boston butt, overall winner and people’s choice winner. Judging started at 4 p.m. By 4:30, one of the judges, City Manager Billy Edwards, mentioned having to sample ribs, Boston butt and chicken from as many as 10 competitors. He was sure he wouldn’t feel like eating supper that evening and predicted he probably wouldn’t eat breakfast, lunch or supper Sunday.
Overall results of the competition were as follows:
First place – Famous Funnel Cakes
Second place – Sho’ nuff Good BBQ
First place – JC’s BBQ
Second place – Famous Funnel Cakes
First place – Famous Funnel Cakes
Second place – Butt Rubbers from Patriot Auto Sales
Famous Funnel Cakes
First Baptist Church
“We do turkeys and Boston butts every year, mostly for the Boy Scouts,” David Peller said. “We’re just doing the competition this year and not selling any barbecue. This is our first go-round.”
The Liberty Boys occupied the first tent guests came to as they entered “barbecue row” in the parking lot across from the Liberty County Justice Center. Next to them was Jonathan Garrett with Sho’ nuff Good BBQ.
“I’ve been barbecuing ever since I was knee-high to a duck,” Garrett said. “I’ve been barbecuing in Hinesville about 13 years now. This is my fifth competition here. I’ve come in second place twice. It’s a good competition.”
Garrett said he’s been setting up at the Farmers Market for about six years. He has a restaurant on 15th Street near Fort Stewart’s gate 7. Across the way from Garrett, the team from First Baptist Church — Assistant County Manager Bob Sprinkel, James Baker, Calvin Wilt and Ken and Aggie Drebelbis — sampled bits from one of their Boston butts and declared it ready.
During the judging, church members stuffed small, free samples of their ribs, butt and chicken into paper cups for attendees to enjoy. Their generosity and smoky, delicious fare possibly were what made them so popular with the crowd. However, they were not the only team giving away free food. Other teams gave away hot wings or turkey-leg pieces. Competitors Do Right BBQ & Seafood served paying customers fresh seafood, chicken wings and smoked sausage with grilled onions.
Two of this year’s competitors plan to settle in Hinesville and open a barbecue restaurant. Erim DeHart, originally from St. Louis, Missouri, is planning to open Lena Mae’s BBQ in a few months. Likewise, Harvey Harris is hoping to open Coach’s BBQ before year’s end.
“I hope to open up Coach’s BBQ in downtown Hinesville in November,” Harris said. “We’ve been competing at Blues and BBQ for about two years now. We always have a good time doing it.”
After the judging, guests could purchase pulled pork, ribs and chicken from some of the competitors. Tables and chairs were set up for couples and families to enjoy their “cue” along with live blues and country music that features sets from Kickin’ Up Dust, Coey Jones Band, Jimmy Wayne Renfro and the HouseShakers, Bobby G and Exit 76.