By Sherry Jackson
Ice cold beer, smoked meat and great music will dominate downtown Chandler on Saturday, March 24, during the ninth annual Great American Barbecue and Beer Festival.
More than 40 barbecue pitmasters from around the United States, along with barbecue competition teams, will serve the estimated 30,000 plus attendees their slow-smoked delicious meats and sides. The event will be held at Dr. A.J. Chandler Park from noon until 10 p.m.
“This is Arizona’s biggest barbecue event,” says Jen Pruett, a spokeswoman. “It’s one of the only places where you can experience all different styles of barbecue including southern-style, Texas-style and more.”
Attendees can indulge in classics such as brisket, ribs, pulled pork and chicken. But those more adventurous will also have options.
“We’ve got some vendors that put their own spin on barbecue,” Pruett says. “We’ll have a taco and Korean barbecue vendor. Bayou Bistro is expected to feature barecue alligator and frog legs and Tom’s barbecue is expected to have a barbecue loaded mac ‘n cheese.” Also new this year, will be vegan and gluten-free options.
Beer options will also be plentiful, with SanTan Brewing Company serving its craft beverages. To meet growing demand, Pabst Blue Ribbon will be available along with wine and spirit selections including vodka, whiskey, and bourbon.
The event is expanding its musical entertainment from two to four stages. Superstar Rodney Atkins will headline the event and take the stage around 8 p.m. Atkins has six No. 1 hits, released four studio LPs and sold more than 10 million units.
Headlining the second stage will be Tennessee-raised, Russell Dickerson. In January, his hit song “Yours” landed at No. 1 on the Country Airplay Billboard charts and continues to gain momentum dominating across streaming and social media channels. The entertainment lineup also includes Jerrod Niemann, Jordan Davis, Georgia Chrome, Laura Walsh, Ryan Sims, Honey Girl, Pick & Holler and Jim Bachmann & the Day Drinkers.
Other entertainment will include live cooking demos, art installations, themed bars with interactive games, creative cocktails, mechanical bull riding competition, local community entertainment, eating competition, March Madness lounge, expanded kids zone, and the return of the Corral zone and VIP area for country music fans and guests looking to elevate their festival experience.
More than 100 vendors will market their wares including retail items such as purses, hot sauces and BBQ sauces, hats and jewelry. Novelty foods will such as snow cones, cotton candy and ice cream will also be available. Local businesses will have booths featuring their services.
The event, produced by HDE Agency, an integrated multi-media marketing agency, will be donating a percentage of the proceeds to benefit the Downtown Chandler Community Partnership, a nonprofit corporation whose mission is to mobilize leadership and resources to advance the development of downtown Chandler as a regional destination for shopping, dining, living, culture, and the arts.
“It will be a lot of fun, with interesting pockets of different entertainment,” Pruett says. “It’s a great day and everyone’s happy.”