The barbecue usually brings people out.
Rick Holland was prophetic as he spoke of his hopes for the Catfish Feastival’s inaugural barbecue festival Friday and Saturday at Ware Shoals. People flocked all day and evening, and the downtown square was packed.
Craft vendors and carnival rides drew their fair share of attention, and catfish dinners were held, but the real draw was the people with the barbecue teams competing for prizes and something to eat. ‘even more important: to speak.
While the rewards are nice, said Wayne Kelly of Rubbin ‘Butts BBQ, but after 25 years of cooking the best part is meeting people and talking.
“You meet so many different people, so many nice people,” he said. “I’m a sociable person.”
After so many years, he said he had met 25-year-old people who he remembered when they were babies. “It tells me I’m getting old.” Some people admit they visit festivals to see it.
Considering he typically attends 25 to 30 festivals a year, in addition to the catered events, that’s quite crowded, even though Kelly admitted COVID-19 has cut his schedule.
For the curious, the name Rubbin ‘Butts recalls the beginnings of the cooking team. Kelly said everyone was crammed into a small space, prompting her son to exclaim “Stop rubbing your butt.” The name stuck.
Kelly was not the only one for whom talking about barbecue came out on top. Marco Young approached Smokey Gray’s BBQ Shack with a direct request, “I just want some brisket. I don’t want a sandwich, I don’t want bread. I just want some meat. He then put two tickets in a jar on the counter for the audience’s prize.
He said he tasted the meat of all the barbecue teams and then returned to Smokey Gray’s.
While waiting on the chest, he spoke with the cook and learned that their families knew each other. This sparked an attempt to catch up after decades of separation. They traded stories about who did what, where everyone had been and even a story about attaching M80s to arrows and then firing arrows to watch the fireworks. Young was so absorbed that his chest grew cold.
Still, the barbecue was the star. Broken Road BBQ won Best Ribs, Smokey Grays won Best Butt, Firehouse Smokers won Best Chicken, and Firehouse Smokers won overall.
Team members marveled at how close the score was. Barely two points separated the first four teams and a fraction of a point separated the first and second teams.
“We have a great barbecue in the state,” said Brian Snavely, judge of the South Carolina Barbeque Association. Six master judges marked the barbecue for the teams.
A first-time visitor to Ware Shoals, Snavely said he intended to return.
“This is barbecue. It takes you to places you didn’t expect, ”he said.
Proceeds from the event will go to next year’s Catfish Feastival. Holland said some bands have already registered for the event.
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