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March 1, 2014

Finger lickin’ good!

TIFTON — Barbecue was definitely on the minds of many barbecue lovers who came out Saturday to the first Rhythm & Ribs BBQ Festival at Fulwood Park.

The weekend event kicked off Friday night with well-known recording artist Edwin McCain, who performed at the Tift Theatre. Saturday’s festivities included other performances, bouncy houses and slides for the kids, a mechanical bull and a rock climbing wall. Also, 40 vendors participated in the festival, with one of them selling out of food due to the large turnout, said Tyron Spearman, tourism coordinator for Tift County.

He noted the city of Tifton and Tifton-Tift County Tourism Association were major sponsors of the event. According to a previous Tifton Gazette article, the new festival is a sanctioned Georgia Barbecue Association event and cookers from across the state were expected to come to Tifton to earn points toward their season championship.

Spearman said Saturday that 26 professional cooking teams participated, as well as five amateur teams that competed in the “Fun Cook” division. In all, more than $10,000 in cash prizes were awarded for the area’s best barbecue.

The professional cooking teams competed in three categories: pulled pork, pork loin and ribs. The amateur cookers competed in pulled pork and ribs. There were also several extra categories where local citizens could enter their best poultry, sauce or cobbler creations.

In the professional division, the Grand Champion title went to Smokin’ 42 BBQ of Tifton, which included team members Chad Brooks, Justin Marchant, Chris O’Neal and Courtney Vowell. They received $2,500 and a trophy.

In the amateur division, the Grand Champion was Wicked Lickin’ BBQ Crew of Worth County, which included team members Jimmy Nelms, Kole Gray, Kason Gray (pit master), Amy Weeks and Lamar Weeks. They received $500.

Cooking teams such as Captain Jack’s BBQ Crew, Bubba Grills, Rub Shakers Que and Sauced Hogs Smoke Shack all commented that they were enjoying the experience. Someone with Rub Shakers Que said, “Tifton has been great to us.” Bubba Grills was pleased to have finalized in two categories (pork loin and ribs) before the final results were later announced. They had also felt confident about their pulled pork.

Spearman said Saturday’s festival was a super success. When asked Saturday afternoon if the festival would be returning next year, he said the outcome of people will determine that. He added that he’s heard nothing but good comments and people want to see it return.

To contact reporter Latasha Ford, call 382-4321.

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