"We've had quite a change this year," said Andy Lipscomb, cooks coordinator for The Georgia Barbecue Classic. "At least for the last four years now I believe we have been sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society and we had two divisions: Pro and Backyard divisions. This year we're non-sanctioned and we're back to a single division. We've actually had a larger response than I expected personally. I was thinking we might wind up with 25 teams or so and we've wound up with 40.
"So we've had a very good response I think. ... close to half the teams are returning from previous years. ... There's quite a difference in attitude from place to place. Some people are there strictly to support the charity. We are doing this as a money raiser. Some people are really into the competition and trying to win. Then there's probably the largest group. [They are] the ones that probably don't care one way or another. They're just there to have a good time. So we have quite a mix of attitudes. Everybody is there to have a good time, but for some people that's pretty much the whole point."
For $5 per person 5 and older or $10 per vehicle on Friday, area residents can sneak a peek at the competitors, peruse vendors' wares and participate in various activities from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Live entertainment also will be provided by Babe's Bayou at 7 p.m.
On Saturday, the festivities will kick off at 11 a.m. The cooks' dishes will be assessed by judges and dispersed to the public for sampling when the gates open. With their $5 admission cost, patrons will receive five tickets to exchange for samples of the Backyard competitors' food, such as pork, pork ribs, beef brisket, barbecue sauce and an open pit challenge. The tickets will serve as votes for the Friend of the Shelter Award, formerly called the People's Choice Award, that will be announced at 3 p.m.
The event, which will close at 5 p.m., also will feature children's activities, craft and food vendors, live entertainment and a raffle for a Big Green Egg.
With fundraisers comprising 34 percent of the Cartersville homeless shelter's $245,000 budget, events like The Georgia Barbecue Classic are key to its operation.
Since forming in 1996, the Good Neighbor has served about 4,100 people. On average, the 4,600-square-foot facility that was built in 2001 assists nearly 345 individuals per year, of whom at least 45 percent are children. While they are housed, the Good Neighbor's guests are required to find a job within four weeks, and the shelter's staff helps them establish savings, focus on problem-solving skills and chart out future housing options.
"The money will go toward operation costs at the shelter," said Margie Shannon Telfair, executive director for the Good Neighbor. "Our funding levels are down and people aren't giving as much as they used to. For the community to come forward, it demonstrates how they are in support of the shelter and for people getting back on their feet, becoming self-sufficient and obtaining affordable housing."
For more information about The Georgia Barbecue Classic, visit www.georgiabarbecueclassic.com or call 770-607-0610.