( 1 Vote )

Mug of beerAbout 7,000 people streamed onto the grounds at Pleasant Grove Saturday (June 23) for Fluvanna’s First BBQ, Bands and Brews festival, sponsored by the Fluvanna Chamber of Commerce.

After days of humid weather with temperatures in the high 90s, a “cold” front came through bringing with it thunder, lightning and lots of rain the day before. Left in its wake was less humid weather but plenty of sunshine and temperatures in the high 80s. Enough to sweat by with a touch of a breeze to cool off.

BBQ, Bands and Brews was the brainchild of John Atkins, pit boss of BBQ Connection. As he sat outside the judge’s tent, Atkins talked about all the hard work it took to bring his idea to fruition.

“I may be the show piece; the eye candy – but they (Brenda Rigsby and Scott Valentine) are the backbone of the event,” Atkins said. “They had to listen to me for nine months incessantly.”

Rigsby stood by and nodded her head.

“And we’re looking forward to not listening to him at all for at least one month,” she said.

Atkins said this was the first such festival in the area and the biggest inaugural event in the county.The Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the event, was giving 10 percent of the proceeds to the Fluvanna County Food Bank, Atkins said.

People stood in line to buy barbeque, while Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned judges sat in a white tent away from the crowds tasting chicken, pork ribs, pork and beef brisket prepared by  competing teams.

Bryant Atkins prepares barbecued chicken.

Atkins’ 15-year-old son, Bryant Atkins, competed in the backyard barbeque category with his team “Heavenly Smokers”. It was his first time competing without his father, Atkins said.

“His 75-year-old grandfather came all the way from Lynchburg to help him,” Atkins said. “He helped me at my first one. It goes far deeper than barbeque. It’s about relationships.”

Bryant Atkins was named Reserve Grand Champion and won first place in the pork ribs category.

U.S. Congressman Robert Hurt (R) was working the crowd. He stopped by the judges’ tent and congratulated Atkins on the event.

“This is amazing,” Hurt said. “It’s so nice to see so many happy people. It’s great. I’m a fan of the Chamber of Commerce and the economic development it promotes.”

Hurt’s Democratic opponent John Douglass also put in an appearance.

While people walked around stopping at vendors’ booths, they were entertained by live music courtesy of Cedar Creek. Later in the day, The Rhondels took the stage.

Alicia and Andy Peterson of Lake Monticello sat on the grass eating barbecue and watching their children Savannah, 4, Connor, 2, and Grayson, 1, dance to the music.

“It’s family, food and fun,” Alicia Peterson said. “We love getting out to do stuff every weekend and this seemed like a good way to spend the day.”

A total of 43 vendors sold food or promoted their products to the crowd.

Nearby sat Anne and Jeff Gomala, sipping on beer from the many microbreweries set up at the festival.

“This is an awesome thing for the county to do,” Anne Gomala said.

Amber Vandevander and 15 of her family and friends all sat lined up in chairs sipping drinks and listening to the music.

“We had some of the wood-grilled pizza and it was really good,” Vandevander said. “This is so nice. It’s family friendly. And this band is really good. Some of the songs they played sounded just like the original artists.”

The Fluvanna High School class of 2002 decided to hold its 10th reunion at the festival.

John Sheridan, who had been the class president, said when he heard about the event, he thought it would be a good place to get together with his classmates.

“It’s the perfect opportunity: food, music and support the county,” Sheridan said. “We’ve really enjoyed it and we couldn’t have asked for better weather.”

Sheridan now lives in Cheyenne, Wy. and said others from as far away as Miami and Denver came back for the reunion.

That’s exactly the kind of thing Scott Valentine, one of the members of the team putting on the event, had in mind.

Valentine said he is from a small farming town in upstate New York. His town held the county fair every year and it is like a homecoming for people who moved away.

“People go back every year and have their reunions,” Valentine said. “Everyone knows you go home that week.”

Valentine said he hopes BBQ, Bands and Brews becomes an annual event that brings people to Fluvanna in the same way.

Those who didn’t get to the festival can catch it online at BBQTV. Atkins met Mark Farris, owner of BBQTV at the Sam’s Club Nationals in Bentonville, Ark, in June. Atkins told Farris about the Fluvanna event and he decided to add it to his East Coast trip. Farris documents barbecue competitions throughout the United States and shows them on his YouTube channel.

Official are still busy tallying how much money was made at the event.