Brenau Barbecue Championship Offers More than ’cue

Aug 26, 2011
Rudi Kiefer

You can expect to get great barbecue this Memorial Day weekend at the second annual Brenau Barbecue Championship, but there’s much more at this family-friendly event.

World-class vendors will be selling everything from food and beverages to T-shirts and jewelry on the Brenau campus. In addition to hot dogs and burgers, you can buy boxed lunches from Aramark, boiled peanuts, nachos, pretzels and pork skins from Skip, and key lime pie on a stick dipped in chocolate from Patti Truelove.

Gourmet Italian ices are available at Uncle Louie G’s, smoothies and lemonade at Bob McGinnis’ RLM Concessions, and homemade sodas at Hillbilly Bob’s.

“Our soda is made from pure cane sugar and extracts the old fashioned way,” said Barry Muse of Hillbilly Bob’s. “It has no caffeine or corn syrup in it. We serve it in real tin cans over ice. We like to think it brings back a taste of the past.”

Pets are not allowed at the event, but dog and cat owners can buy treats from Pet Pleasers Bakery.

“We handcraft natural dog treats, cat and horse treats,” said Ina Griffin. “They’re all natural, no salt or artificial sweeteners, and all human-grade ingredients. We were at the event last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. It offered us more exposure to the local market.”

Other products and vendors include jewelry from Estraya Custom Gifts; cards and printing from iCard Now; golf shirts and ties from Southern Proper; handbags and jewelry from Great Fynds; accessories and shawls from Rahab’s Rope; and temporary tattoos, airbrushed T-shirts and portraits from SB Design Koncepts.

Adult beverages also will be available as well as some prize-winning barbecue from Betsy Sue’s BBQ and Jack’s Old South. Myron Mixon’s team of Jack’s Old South won the grand champion award last year in the whole hog and shoulder categories and is competing again this year against 19 other professional teams in the Memphis Barbecue Network-sanctioned event. Twenty-five amateur cookers will vie for bragging rights in the “Backyard Braggarts” division.

The festival technically opens on Friday night, May 28, with a preview party at the Brenau Amphitheater that will feature “The Cracker Queen” author Lauretta Hannon and live performances by musician Kimberly Clark and the Jimmy Buffett tribute band, Sons of Sailors. Gates open at 5 p.m. with $10 admission.

Hannon also will be at the preview party. Between musical acts, she will read and tell stories from “The Cracker Queen,” which was recently named one of the “25 Books All Georgians Should Read.” You can buy copies of the book at the amphitheater from Brenau’s Barnes & Noble Campus Bookstore. And you can meet Hannon at the booth, before and after her talk, when she will sign copies of the book.

A key new feature on Saturday, May 29, will be an antique auto show featuring a host of mint-condition classic cars, many of which are literally works of art. In addition, thanks to an expanded role by event partners, Quinlan Arts Center and the Interactive Neighborhood for Kids museum, there will be many more activities for children, including programs, inflated playground equipment and a visit by “super celebrity” Ronald McDonald.

The health screening booth, one of the highest-trafficked exhibits at last year’s inaugural Brenau barbecue competition, will be staffed from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. by student nurses and faculty from the nursing programs at Brenau’s School of Health and Science.

“Health screening is a big deal,” said festival founder Jim Barco, Brenau’s senior vice president for institutional advancement. “We’ll provide information on health issues and do tests on blood pressure, glucose and hydration. If you haven’t had these tests done before, let us give you a benchmark.”

All of this is available for $5 admission, and that money will be used to fund local scholarships for more nursing, education and business students at Brenau University.

More than 3,000 attended the festival last year. That number is expected to double this year with the added events and word-of-mouth praise.

The Brenau Barbecue Championship offers something for everyone as well as being a showcase for the university, said Dixie Truelove, co-owner of Truelove Dairy and a member of the Brenau board of advisers

“A barbecue is able to bring a wide group of individuals onto the campus. Everybody’s form of entertainment is not the same. I married a guy whose family restores old cars. This year’s car show has some gorgeous cars that you can’t find anymore. The idea is to try to bring the community onto the campus and make them aware that anyone can attend this college, that it’s a place for a great education.”

Not only is the barbecue championship good for Brenau, Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, believes it’s good for Gainesville, Hall County and the region.

“It brings in local people and many visitors to taste the barbecue, view the judging and, most of all, to see Brenau University, spend money in the community and ultimately provide scholarships for students,” said Dunlap, a Brenau graduate. “Brenau University is a vital economic engine for our community and for educating students for our future workforce.”

For more information, go to the website

Originally published on 5/27/10