Ribs on the Smoker at Brenau Barbecue Championship
"It's said of Southerners that we do not know strangers, rather people we haven't yet met," says Jim Barco, Senior Vice President of Brenau University in Gainesville, Georgia. He'll be meeting many old friends and new ones at the 4th annual Brenau BBQ Championship.
Jim dropped me an email after reading about my love of barbecue on the Catawba College website. That's where I teach, and it just happens to be where Jim graduated with a degree in business in 1977. He thought I might like to attend the college barbecue competition with the proceeds going to scholarships for kids in the area. Now, how could I pass that up?
Having been a student at Catawba College, Jim knows barbecue - the slow smoked kind that does not include burgers and hot dogs on the menu. The college is located right in the heart of North Carolina western or Lexington style barbecue country (slow smoked pork shoulders, chopped and served on a bun with a tangy vinegar sauce). He noted that it's the law that you love BBQ in North Carolina, and said: "I think the requirement is in the state constitution."
Officials at Brenau were not so sure about a barbecue fundraiser in the beginning, but now the event has become a campus favorite - getting larger every year. They even have TV barbecue superstar Myron Mixon on board for the competition, and you know he plans to win. And, I plan to snag Myron for a photo.
About the Brenau Barbecue Festival
The event is held on the Brenau campus. It's a small university with under 3000 students, but they open the doors to over 5000 people on barbecue weekend. Everyone pitches in, and it's kind of like a family reunion but a really big family.
The Memphis Barbecue Network sanctioned competitions is for both professional teams (like Dixie Que and Bubba Grills - 20 total) as well as back yard barbecuers (30 teams). Jim said the backyard barbecue guys (and girls) are welcome to practice at his house and year round. I'm sure he'd be fine with Myron dropping by and cranking out some barbecue ribs too.
The event this year kicks off on May 25 with music by Drippin' Wet. This is when the barbecue folks begin set up, prep, and dig in for a long night of smoker tending. Although I've never been a competition person (my area is home grilling/smoking and writing), I enjoy hanging out behind the scenes and gathering stories and photos.
Ready for a Day of Barbecue Fun at Brenau University
Saturday May 26th is the main event with the gates open at 10 am. In addition to the scoring and bragging rights (and barbecue guys are good about that), there's a full day of family fun including music, a classic car show, and lots of fun activities for the kids. Vendors are on hand with all kinds of yummy food, and you can also get handmade crafts (good early Christmas shopping opportunity for those who think ahead like that).
If you're in or close the Atlanta area, then Brenau is about 50 miles outside the city. It would be a good road trip and also means that more young people get a chance to go to college at one of the top 15-best higher education universities in terms of value according to U.S. News & World Report.
I'll be headed that way, and I hope my son can make it. He's getting really good with a camera, and I could use a shutterbug while I'm taking notes. If you see me there at the Brenau University Barbecue Competition, be sure to say "hi" and share some que stories.
Here is more information on the Brenau BBQ along with directions and a schedule.