The Franklin Noon Rotary is known for its long-standing tradition of producing the Franklin Rodeo, however, a new tradition is starting to make its mark in Franklin with the fourth annual Great Americana BBQ Festival.
In its fourth year, the event, set for Aug. 24, is already a Kansas City Barbecue Society sanctioned competition, which means these folks take their grilling seriously.
“We have teams come from as far away as Texas to compete,” said Jeff Nichols, a Rotarian and BBQ Society member who helps coordinate the event. “Last year we had 86 teams, this year could be more. We have local teams, but many teams travel from out of town to be here. Franklin is becoming a destination.”
The event turns the beautiful Park at Harlinsdale Farm into a campground of sorts as competitors bring their campers, grills and families for a weekend of smoking ribs, brisket, pork butts and chicken. Pro and backyard teams compete for money and the pro teams are also in it to advance to the prestigious Jack Daniels Barbecue competition.
“These teams take it very seriously,” Nichols said. “We have almost $15,000 in prize money for the teams, but bragging rights and trophies are much more prestigious.”
This year the event will feature Bama-Q-TV on site to film an episode for its TV show. Bama-Q follows members of the Alabama BBQ Association as they compete.
The festival features much more than teams competing. The Franklin Noon Rotary Club wants to provide a fun and entertaining experience for the entire family.
“The event is designed so all members of the family can come and eat, listen to music, check out the car show, or go to the kids zone,” Nichols said.
The event will have vendors, so, if shopping or browsing is your thing, you’re in luck. There will be a larger stage this year where musicians will will be playing throughout the day. And if you like whiskey, there will be a whiskey barn set up for tasting different libations produced in the area. The whiskey tasting is $35. There also will be a demonstration stage for the those who want to learn about preparing the best brisket or ribs, with local chef’s sharing their secrets.
For car enthusiasts, a car show will feature more than 50 vintage models, including a vintage fire truck. If you are bringing the kids, the club has added an expanded kids zone this year complete with a balloon magician, games and the main attraction — the Big Idaho Potato Truck — which is on tour promoting the certified heart-healthy potato.
Tickets for the event are $5 with food, beer and wine available for purchase on the grounds.
The Franklin Noon Rotary Foundation has given more than $2 million to the community since the creation of the Franklin Rodeo 70 years ago.
The Great Americana BBQ Festival was created to form another revenue stream for the foundation to give back.
“Our club is service above self,” said Valerie Clarke, club president. “At the end of the day, our club members are all volunteers working hard to do good things for the community, and the BBQ Festival is becoming better each year, thanks to the hard work of our club. A list of the many charities the club supports can be found online at www.franklinnoonrotary.com.
Flavor of Franklin
Friday night at The Park at Harlinsdale will set the tone for the weekend with the second annual Flavor of Franklin. The event will feature more than 30 restaurants that will bring samplings from their menus.
“We already have the park rented for the weekend,” Nichols said. “It’s the most beautiful park in the area, so why not have a party on Friday to kick off the festival.”
The event allows ticket holders to stroll around the park and taste different foods from area restaurants under a beautiful setting. Tickets to the Friday night event are $35 in advance or $40 the day of, and the price includes two drink tickets. Additional beverages will also be available for sale.
Nichols encourages those who come on Friday to walk around the competition village and talk with the competitors about their methods.
“It’s a great way to meet some of the competitors and ask them questions about how they prepare the meat, what kind of smokers they use, what kind of rubs and charcoal they use, whatever,” Nichols said. “And make some new friends.”