By Chris McCarthy
If you notice a great deal of smoke hovering over Lookout Mountain next weekend, there’s no need to alert your local fire department.
The Fourth Annual Smoke on the Falls BBQ Festival takes place at Noccalula Falls Park and Campground on April 13-14.
In addition to good, old-fashioned, mouth-watering bar-b-que whipped up by some of the best cooks in the country, the event includes live music, children’s activities and the inaugural “Smoke Your Buns” 5K run.
Hosted by the City of Gadsden Parks and Recreation, the Coosa Valley YMCA and Downtown Gadsden, Inc., the two-day will feature professional “pit masters” who will compete for $10,000 in prize money. Sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society, the cook-off serves as a pre-qualifier for an invitation to the American Royal BBQ Cook-off. Fifty-three judges will participate in the event.
With additional teams participating, Noccalula Falls Park Administrative Supervisor Janet Tarrance said the park hopes to double the approximately 2,000 attendees from the 2011 event. Forty-four pro teams and 29 backyard teams have registered. Tarrance added that two-time world champion Big Bob Gibson will compete in the event.
Amateur cookers will not be left out, as the festival has a Backyard Grillers division that allows local grillers to showcase their talents.
Tarrance said that the BBQ competition will be set up in front of the main park entrance. She noted that additional parking would be available in the lot near the campground. The music stage will be set up n front of the park gift shop.
The BBQ Fun Zone sponsored by Johnson’s Giant Foods will feature inflatable, obstacle courses and games for children of all ages. In addition to a game of miniature golf and Dad’s BBQ sandwich, admission fee includes is entrance to the park that features a petting zoo, Pioneer Village and train rides.
Gates open Friday at 5 p.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m. Tickets are $10 each day for adults and $5 per day for children ages 6 to 12 years. Weekend passes are $15 for adults and $7 for children ages 6 to 12 years. Children age 5 and under are admitted free. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and coolers.
Tarrance believes that the addition of the 5K race, which begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday, will serve as a big draw.
“The race is going to be really, really fun. You get to actually run through [the area] where they’re cooking, so it might slow some people down! But we wanted to add something onto the bar-b-que to draw in some people who maybe didn’t know about [the BBQ] and give them something they enjoy, too. And a weekend pass comes with the race entry fee.”
The live entertainment kicks off at 5:30 p.m. on Friday with WQSB Talent finalist Adam Walden, followed by America’s Got Talent semi-finalist The Fiddleheads at 7:30 p.m. Saturday’s music begins at 11:30 a.m. with the Pioneer Chick’n Stand Band, followed by Black Creek Revival.
“Using the falls as the site of the event really turned out to be great, because there’s many other attractions for the patrons to enjoy,” said Coosa Valley YMCA Executive Director LeRoy Falcon. “The falls, and the park in general, add a whole other element to the festival, particularly for the pro teams that are from out of town. Many of them travel around the country, and the City of Gadsden has really taken the lead in terms of logistics and organization.”
According to Tarrant, the event organizers begin planning the next “Smoke on the Falls” almost as soon as the previous event is over.
“You start gathering thoughts and writing down ideas. About six to eight months out we begin to have monthly meetings, and then you eventually get to weekly meetings and then two or three times a week. With [the event] now just one week away, everybody and anybody that can lend a hand is welcome!”
Tickets may be purchased at Noccalula Falls at the Kiwanis Pavilion, the main office of the Gadsden Parks and Recreation, Downtown Gadsden Inc., or the YMCA of the Coosa Valley. For more information contact Janet Tarrance at 256-549-4663 or firstname.lastname@example.org.