Brenau University’s 4th Annual Barbecue Competition marks return of old champion and new hopefuls
Myron Mixon of Jack’s Old South returns to the 4th Annual Brenau Barbecue Championship May 25-26 with the aim of smoking the competition like he did four years ago.
“We’re going to do the same thing we’ve always done — and that’s win,” said Mixon.
More than 5,000 people are expected for the event sanctioned by the Memphis Barbecue Network on the Brenau University campus in Gainesville, Ga. Last year’s competition netted more than $80,000 for local scholarships.
Mixon, who did not take the title in his second year at Brenau and passed on the 2011 competition, has a huge following. The first Jack’s Old South franchise has opened just down the road from Brenau in Braselton, Ga., and plans are underway for a restaurant in Miami later this year. He’s the author of the New York Times best-selling cookbook “Smokin’ with Myron Mixon” and a star of the reality television series BBQ Pitmasters. Since opening his restaurant in 1996 in Unadilla, Ga., as a means to showcase the sauce recipe of his mother and father, Gaye and Jack Mixon., his team has won more than 200 grand championships, more than 1,900 trophies, more than 40 state championships in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, Illinois, South Carolina, and Tennessee, and 11 national championships.
“He’s a rock star when it comes to barbecue,” said Jim Barco, Brenau’s senior vice president for institutional development who coordinates the event. “Two years ago, 15 people chartered a bus from Knoxville, Tenn., just to have their picture taken with him.”
Mixon, who said he plays “a pretty tough guy” on television, gives his audience what they want.
“A lot of times people want me to talk ugly when they come around me,” he said.
Mixon also cooks some of the best barbecue around, and expects to see folks who have taken his $750 a head classes among his competition.
“When I have somebody beat me, that’s some of the best advertising in the world,” he said. Still, he does not plan to let that happen at the Brenau 2012 competition.
A maximum of 20 professional cook teams – including Dixie Que, Bubba Grills and Jurassic Pork – and 30 local “backyard braggarts” teams will compete.
“There are no slackers on the pro side and the Backyard Braggarts can come to my house and cook any time,” Barco said. Many of the “amateurs” are “pros in waiting,” he added, just trying to perfect their skills before venturing onto the pro circuit.
In addition to the aromatic food, some 35 vendors who have registered thus far to appear at the Brenau festival will also ply their wares amidst the aroma of hickory, apple and peach wood.
Visitors can buy beads, bangles and baubles along with their barbecue, thanks to a Brenau alumna and her mother.
Charity Schlereth and her mother Sherry started a handmade jewelry business called M/D Designs last year. The fund-raising aspect of the event resonates with Charity, a Brenau scholarship recipient who graduated cum laude in 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts in mass communication with an emphasis in broadcast journalism and television production.
“I like the idea of being able to contribute in that way and give back,” said Charity. “I have to credit Brenau with helping me get the great position I’m in now.”
Charity, who worked at TV18, the local government channel in Gainesville, while she was in college, is now a production assistant with the station.
M/D Designs, which stands for Mother/Daughter, “is something we can bond over,” says Charity. “As we’ve gone along, we’ve found our niches.”
Charity is more interested in wire-working and bead-stringing and enjoys making earrings, while Sherry works more in leather, macramé and bracelets. They also make rings and necklaces.
Neither uses sterling silver or gold, which keeps the prices down. Most pieces cost less than $15 and some are as inexpensive as $3.
“We’ve tried to create one-of-a kind, handmade, affordable jewelry that anybody can buy,” Sherry said. “You can wear it and have fun. And if you lose it, it’s not such a huge investment that it’s a great loss.”
They hope buyers will be drawn to their work.
“We’re creating things,” Charity said, “that someone could pass on to their daughter one day.”
The festivities begin on May 25 with a preview party from 6-9 p.m. headlined by Drippin’ Wet and featuring the North Hall High School jazz band. About 1,500 people are expected.
The gates open May 26 at 10 a.m. and the event, which includes activities for children, regional music and a classic car show, continues until 6 p.m.