Bluegrass, barbecue take center stage at third annual Papa Joe's Banjo-B-Que festival in Evans

 The Fatback’s BBQ and Rib Shack team put the finishing touches on their barbecue camp at Evans Towne Center Park Thursday afternoon.


Brothers Corey and Bobby Brinson and friend Rick Edwards, from Fayetteville, N.C., planned to relax for the evening before they fire up the smoker for the third annual Papa Joe’s Banjo-B-Que Bluegrass Festival and Barbecue Cook-Off.

The festival, sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, begins at 5 p.m. Friday. Live entertainment and other events will continue Saturday at 11 a.m.

“I’m pretty confident in our ribs, and our chicken,” Bobby Brinson said of the not-so-amateur cooking team who will put a gravity-fed charcoal smoker to good use.

“We’re going to cook everything in there,” said Corey Brinson, who runs a mobile barbecue business in Fayetteville, N.C.

Fatback’s is one of 60 cooking teams expected to compete for $40,000 in prize money. They have the option to prepare meats in four categories – chicken, ribs, pork and brisket – and compete for the $5,000 Grand Champion prize.

“The barbecue is delicious,” said Doug Varnadore, vice-president of event sponsor A.B. Beverage. “We get to taste the leftovers.”

Varnadore and his wife, Cathy, started the festival to honor his father-in-law, Joseph R. “Papa Joe” Pond. The second-generation owner of A.B. Beverage, who died in 2006, loved bluegrass and barbecue.

“It’s all the things he loved,” event organizer Christy Beckham said.

The festival features two stages of live music both days, including Drive-By Truckers and Ketch and Critter from Old Crow Medicine Show on Saturday evening. Mountain Heart will headline Friday evening.

Friday evening begins with a “bragging rights” steak cook-off by the cooking teams and a Kids Cook-Off, where children can register to grill burgers for prizes.

The barbecue cooking teams will face off Saturday. Many of the teams will sell their barbecue.

The festival, which took place in North Augusta’s Hippodrome in 2010 and 2011, is a stop on the Great American BBQ Tour and the Kingsford Points Tour Chase.

Varnadore said a “saloon” will carry a large selection of craft beer.

“A lot of these craft beers are more flavorful,” Varnadore said.

The festival is a family event with pig races, a petting zoo and a playground.

“It’s such a feel-good event,” Beckham said. “It’s different than anything else you’re going to go to. … We want people to come out and enjoy it.”


The festival benefits the Joseph R. Pond Memorial Foundation, which donates to local charities through the CSRA Community Foundation.



Drive-By Truckers, 12 more acts, cruise in for Papa Joe's Banjo-B-Que and Bluegrass Festival

When: 5-11 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday

Where: Evans Towne Center Park

Admission: $35, $5 discount for military and law enforcement. Free for children 12 and younger

More: or (706) 855-8555


Friday, May 25
5:30 p.m.:
The Ramblin’ Fevers
6:45 p.m.:
Lera Lynn
8:15 p.m.:
The Brothers Comatose
9:45 p.m.:
Mountain Heart


Saturday, May 26
Main Stage
11:25 a.m.:
The Whiskey Gentry
12:35 p.m.:
Austin Lucas & Glossary
2:15 p.m.:
Frontier Ruckus
3:40 p.m.:
Little Roy & Lizzy Show
5:05 p.m.:
BBQ Awards
6:15 p.m.:
7:40 p.m.:
Color Guard presentation, national anthem
7:50 p.m.:
Ketch & Critter
9:35 p.m.:
9:45 p.m.:
Drive-By Truckers

Saloon Stage
3:10 p.m.:
Sibling String
4:35 p.m.:
The Mason Jars
5:45 p.m.:
Austin Lucas
7:10 p.m.:
Frontier Ruckus
9:05 p.m.:
The Whiskey Gentry