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AJC lists BBQ & Blues fest among 10 best

By Blake Guthrie For the AJC There are as many ways to spell barbecue as there are ways to prepare it. The debate boils down (or should we say ‘smokes down’) to a matter of taste. For those who are serious about such matters, the Southeast offers a bounty of springtime barbecue festivals where the competition can be fierce and the eating is good. Here are a few to consider: â— Smokin’ Blues & BBQ Challenge: The barbecue contest at this fest is called a ‘challenge’ rather than a competition, and the blues are something you’re supposed to dance to, not cry along with. This is Louisiana, after all. There will also be a sweet tea challenge. March 26-27. Hammond, La. www.’¨ â— Smoke on the Water BBQ Cook-off and Bluegrass Festival: Taking place along the shores of tiny, picturesque Bickley’s Lake, this festival will have a professional competition as well as the Patio Pros amateur cook-off. Recreational vehicle parking is allowed on the grounds, but keep in mind that no hookups will be available. April 2-3. Thomaston, Ga. â— ‘Smokin’ in the Wiregrass’ Tri-State BBQ Festival: In the land where the peanut is king (Dothan is home to the annual National Peanut Festival) good barbecue is also harvested at this festival’s competition. There will be music all weekend, mostly of the country and blues variety, a play area for kids and the Tasting Tent, where visitors sample and vote for their favorite ‘cue. April 9-10. Dothan, Ala. â— Gulf Coast Rhythm and Ribfest: Vendors will serve all types of barbecue, but ribs are the focus of the competition at this Tampa Bay area festival. There’s also an auto show with muscle cars and motorcycles, and the Kids Zone featuring bounce houses, hay rides and interactive games. April 9-11. Bradenton, Fla. www.gulfcoastribfest.’¨com. â— Barnesville BBQ & Blues Festival: This Barnesville festival boasts a golf cart-decorating contest to go along with its custom auto show. Blues acts perform for free on the BBQ Stage, and there’s a $10 admission fee for the Saturday evening concert at Ritz Park Amphitheater, which will feature multiple blues acts and presentation of the Georgia Music Legend Award. Nick Moss & The Flip Tops, winners of the 2009 Best Blues Band Award at the Blues Blast Music Awards, will perform. April 23-24. Barnesville, Ga. â— Whistle Stop Festival & Rocket City BBQ Cook-off: Taking place at the historic Huntsville Depot, the musical lineup was unconfirmed at press time, but last year’s headlining act was The Charlie Daniels Band, proof the organizers know how to land a big name. The popular U.S. Space & Rocket Center museum is near the depot. April 30-May 1. Huntsville, Ala. â— World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest: This competition is part of the larger Memphis in May International Festival, which begins with the Beale Street Music Festival the first weekend of the month. The cooking contest occurs in the middle of May, when hundreds of teams compete for over $90,000 in prize money. May 13-15. Memphis. â— Bloomin’ BBQ & Bluegrass: Occurring in mid-May, when Smoky Mountain wildflowers are in full bloom and authentic bluegrass music can be heard echoing off nearby hillsides, this festival takes place near Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Mountain Soul Vocal Competition is a highlight, wherein all competitors must sing a song written by Dolly Parton, a native of the area. May 14-15. Sevierville, Tenn. â— Blue Ridge BBQ & Music Festival: This late-spring festival was almost canceled this year due to budgetary concerns, but after a big show of community support, it’s back on. Over 80 cook teams will be competing. Also returning is the craft fair, a kids park and two stages of musical entertainment. June 11-12. Tryon, N.C. www.blueridgebbq’¨ â— W.C. Handy Blues & Barbecue Festival: Music is the primary focus of this event, with plenty of barbecue to go along with the festivities. It all gets started on Saturday morning with the Street Strut People’s Parade. One night of this week-long fest will focus on zydeco music and Cajun food. June 12-19. Henderson, Ky. Provided by Demand Studios

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