LYNCHBURG — Late Friday night, the haze that will settle over downtown Lynchburg will likely be a mixture of fog from the cool October night and smoke bellowing from Wiseman Park as the 25th annual Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue returns to town.
The community began planning months ago, but amped up preparation this week. Banners were hung over Majors Blvd. a few weeks back and just this week the courthouse square received a facelift as grounds crews worked to dress up the landscaping.
“We’re expecting a big crowd, 20,000-plus,” said Metro Moore County Mayor Sloan Stewart. “It’s a big economy booster for us, as far as sales tax and bottle sales go.
“The preparation we’ve done is just to make everything look good. You want to make a good impression. The 20,000 or so people who will be here will be tourists, so you certainly want to give them a good impression of your town.”
Many of the visitors who flock to the hollow this week, will be making a return visit, as the annual event is one of the biggest on the competitive barbecue circuit and always draws a great repeat crowd. But for others, it will be their first trip to Lynchburg, which is often depicted as a sleepy southern town in the commercials for Jack Daniel’s numerous lines of distinctive spirits.
Regardless of how it’s perceived, for 36 hours the town will turn into a mini-metropolis, beginning Friday evening as the distillery hosts competition judges and VIPs. At 5 p.m., there will be a Parade of Teams through Wiseman Park and the Lynchburg town square.
Saturday begins with the Jack Dash, a 7-mile run combined with a 5K run/walk at 7:30 a.m. While a myriad of other activities — including contests and live music — will be taking place in the park and on the square, competition cookers will be getting down to business.
The day’s first judging begins at 11:30 a.m., while the awards ceremony for the Shade Tree Cook-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. The awards ceremony for the Invitational and the Winner’s Circle contest begins at 5 p.m. at the judges’ pavilion.
2012 Grand Champion Pig Skin BBQ, an Iowa-based team, will be back to defend its title. And in celebration of the event’s silver anniversary, officials have added something special with the Winner’s Circle — a separately judged competition amongst The Jack’s prestigious champions of years past.
Last year’s competition was stiff. From nearly 90 national and international teams, Pig Skin BBQ of Rockwell, Iowa, was ultimately named Grand Champion.
For more on the silver anniversary of The Jack, see the Oct. 24 print edition of the Moore County News. To subscribe, click here.
By ROBERT HOLMAN, Editor & Publisher