It”s not a party without Mother Goose. The local celebrity, craft and food vendors, inflatables and a mini-carnival are the icing on the cake (or the sauce on the ribs, rather) for this year”s Grilling on the River event, Friday and Saturday.
Last year, the annual cooking contest drew a crowd of about 10,000.
“With a nice, beautiful spring day, we”d like to surpass that this year,” said organizer Harvey Myrick.
The barbecue championship and food fair will feature 50 professional teams from Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida, as well as the Magnolia State, and eight amateur teams.
For Myrick, bringing pro teams from various states is just a matter of selling Columbus” hospitality. Pilgrimage, which continues this week with home, church and garden tours, also is a draw, he noted.
“We are out soliciting at other contests throughout the year,” Myrick said.
Access to the event is free. Grilling on the River will welcome visitors starting at 4 p.m. on Friday, at the Columbus Riverwalk in downtown, near Ruben”s Fish House.
Friday”s festivities start with the Great American Barbecue Tour, a series of live food demonstrations, which will be held throughout the evening. The Anything Butt contest starts at 6:30 p.m., featuring sweet potatoes from the Mississippi Sweet Potato Council and farm-raised catfish from Superior Catfish Products in Macon.
“For this contest, they can cook the catfish however they want. They can sauté it, grill it, stuff it with shrimp, however they want to cook it,” Myrick explained.
The sweet potato portion of the contest will work the same way.
From 7 p.m. until the gates close at 11 p.m., visitors and contestants can enjoy live music from Big Joe Shelton and then the band Freeway.
Saturday, gates open at 9 a.m., and the Great American Barbecue Tour will offer demonstrations until 6 p.m. Also on the agenda is Kids” Que”ing, a children”s grilling contest, speeches from political candidates, and music from Gemini, beginning at 2 p.m. The awards ceremony is at 4 p.m., and gates close at 6 p.m.
All proceeds from Grilling on the River benefit the Columbus-Lowndes Humane Society.
On the Web
71st Spring Pilgrimage events
· Home and church tours, tickets and general info: Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation antebellum home, garden and church tours, plus special events, through Saturday. Tickets and more info: Tennessee Williams Welcome Center, 300 Main St.; 662-328-0222, 662-920-3533, or columbus-ms.org.
· Tales from the Crypt: Friday, 7-10 p.m. at Friendship Cemetery. Bring the family to these dramatic re-enactments by Mississippi School for Math and Science students. $4 adults; $2 children. (Please arrive no later than 9 p.m. for the last walking tour.) n Carriage rides: Friday and Saturday, departing from the welcome center. See the historic district from a different perspective.
· Book signing: Saturday, 10 a.m., with Lynne Bryant, author of “Catfish Alley.”
· Grilling on the River: Friday (4-11 p.m.), Saturday (10 a.m.-6 p.m.) Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned competition, food fair, vendors, family fun; free. Donations benefit the Columbus-Lowndes Humane Society.
· Tour of Kitchens: Saturday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Tour three Columbus kitchens, complete with craftsmen on hand and tastings from local restaurants, to benefit the Columbus Girlchoir ($20).
· Antique jewelry show: At White Arches during Pilgrimage tours, presented by Carlton Gorman.
· Double decker bus tours: Inquire at Welcome Center for times. $5 with purchase of a tour ticket; $8 without.
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