Main Street might cook up barbecue contest for Riverfest|[06/26/08]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 26, 2008

A third day of activities, including a barbecuing contest, could be added to Vicksburg’s annual Riverfest after a meeting set for next month.

Carolyn Wells, president of the Kansas City Barbeque Society, will be in Vicksburg July 9-10 to discuss the possibility of starting a local barbecue contest, in which the winner would travel to Memphis for the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.

Wells “will give us the ins and outs of having a contest in Vicksburg,” said Main Street director Rosalie Theobald.

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KCBS is the world’s largest organization of barbecue and grilling enthusiasts with more than 8,000 members worldwide. The organization sanctions almost 300 contests across the country each year.

Having a contest here is the brainchild of John Harper, owner of Country Junction Bar-B-Q. He has participated in barbecue contests for 15 years and has finished second and third in the world at Memphis in May in years past. He said he became familiar with Wells, who showed interest in having a contest here.

“She always thought this would be a great place,” he said.

Wells will meet with several local barbecue restaurant owners and Riverfest board members for an initial meeting to tell them what it will take to have a local competition. Theobald said Riverfest volunteers seem to “love the idea,” which could open itself up to provide other activities related to the festival.

“I think it’s something we can expand on,” she said.

Having the contest tied to Riverfest would bring in large crowds, Harper said.

“I think we will have tons and tons of people. It’s a lot of fun – a lot of parties and great smells in the air,” he said.

Until the mid-1990s, the annual street party was a three-day event, with the final day slated for “all-star competitions” composed of teams from local businesses. The events, which included tug-of-war and sack races, were at the City Park Pavilion and, at one time, drew crowds as large as the downtown festival, Theobald said. The added day, however, came to an end when interest slacked off from businesses around 1995.

“It all stopped due to lack of interest,” said former board member Eddie Arnold.

Riverfest board members decided to scale the festival back to include nighttime events Friday and Saturday with musical entertainment and free activities all day Saturday, which is the current model.

In other business Tuesday, the Main Street board:

Discussed moving its offices from City Hall Annex to 1416 Washington St., a property owned by Robert Ware of The Ware House. Theobald said the board is “pulling figures together” to see how they “can make that happen.”

Discussed the upcoming visit by the Mississippi/Louisiana Tourism Association Aug. 12-14 and decided to talk to downtown merchants about having a summer evening shopping fling Aug. 12.

Heard a report from Shirley Waring requesting financial support from Main Street to help fund the Vicksburg Heritage League. The board asked her to return to the next meeting with more details.