Mary­land State BBQ Bash re­turns this week­end

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By DAVID AN­DER­SON The Aegis

BEL AIR — The Mary­land State BBQ Bash in Bel Air has be­come in its 15-year his­tory one of the largest pub­lic events in Har­ford County with up to 40,000 vis­i­tors an­nu­ally.

It is also an event where fam­i­lies and friends can spend two days en­joy­ing plenty of bar­be­cue and live mu­sic, ac­cord­ing to Craig Ward, who founded the bash in 2002.

“Go­ing to the bash has be­come a fam­ily tra­di­tion for a lot of peo­ple,” Ward said Mon­day.

He said it’s also a time for those whose friends or rel­a­tives have moved away from Har­ford County “get back to­gether to go to the BBQ Bash ... so that’s pretty cool.”

This year’s bash, which is hosted by the Bel Air Down­town Al­liance, will take place at its usual spot in the park­ing lot of the Mary E. Ris­teau State Of­fice Build­ing at South Bond and Thomas streets in down­town Bel Air.

It will be moved to the Ris­teau build­ing pa­tio this year.

“It’s go­ing to be a lit­tle more con­nected to the event,” Ward said.

The event runs from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Fri­day and from noon to 10 p.m. Satur­day, ac­cord­ing to the Down­town Al­liance web­site.

Ad­mis­sion is free, ex­cept for the VIP Roll Out the Bar­rel bour­bon and cigar event sched­uled for Fri­day evening.

Tick­ets are $75 each, ac­cord­ing to the al­liance web­site. Roll Out the Bar­rel, which is spon­sored by Spar­tan Sur­faces, of Bel Air, in part­ner­ship with the Katzen Eye Group, runs from 6 to 9 p.m. Fri­day.

Peo­ple can en­joy a catered din­ner from One Eleven Main, bour­bon tast­ing or­ga­nized by Bel Air Liquors, a cigar from Main Street Cigar and craft beer from In­de­pen­dent Brew­ing Co., ac­cord­ing to the web­site.

This year is the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year for Roll Out the Bar­rel. Ward said the in­au­gu­ral event, which was held last year in a park­ing lot ad­ja­cent to the main Bash, got “great re­views.”

Ward was pres­i­dent of the Down­town Al­liance board when he founded the bash. He re­turned to that po­si­tion three years ago af­ter he re­tired as pres­i­dent of Fred­er­ick Ward As­so­ciates, the down­town Bel Air en­gi­neer­ing, sur­vey­ing, plan­ning and ar­chi­tec­tural firm.

The bash started out with about 25 pro­fes­sional cook teams. It was held in the park­ing lot at Main Street and Churchville Road for the first two years. (Th­elot is typ­i­cally used by Black Eyed Suzie’s restau­rant pa­trons and Har­ford County em­ploy­ees.)

It was moved to the Ris­teau build­ing lot 13 years ago where there was more room, Ward said.

Fifty pro­fes­sional teams from around the U.S. are par­tic­i­pat­ing in this year’s com­pe­ti­tion and about 50 lo­cal ama­teur teams are com­pet­ing in the Tail­gate Chal­lenge.

The judges in the pro­fes­sional com­pe­ti­tion are cer­ti­fied through the Kansas City Bar­be­cue So­ci­ety. Par­tic­i­pants com­pete for up to $12,500 in cash prizes and a spot in the an­nual Jack Daniel’s World Cham­pi­onship In­vi­ta­tional Bar­be­cue in Lynch­burg, Tenn. and The Amer­i­can Royal in Kansas City, Mo.

Ward said more teams would par­tic­i­pate in the pro­fes­sional and ama­teur chal­lenges, but there is only enough space in the event area for the cur­rent num­ber.

“When we started this our sights were pretty low, but it was suc­cess­ful since the be­gin­ning,” Ward said. “I think it’s the kind of event that will have a lot of longevity.”

He said or­ga­niz­ers would like to keep the bash in Bel Air.

“It started out as be­ing some­thing to at­tract peo­ple to down­town Bel Air, and we want to keep that tra­di­tion go­ing, too,” Ward said.

Shut­tle bus ser­vice is avail­able to and from Bel Air High School and The John Car­roll School, ac­cord­ing to Ward.

Vis­i­tors can pur­chase beer, in ad­di­tion to the mul­ti­ple bar­be­cue op­tions — the beer ser­vice area was moved to the Bond Street side of the lot last year, and it will be there again this year.

Ward said that shift, made in con­sul­ta­tion with town po­lice and county emer­gency op­er­a­tions of­fi­cials, cre­ates more space in front of the live mu­sic area on the Hays Street side of the lot.

“It just worked very, very well last year,” he said.

Bash or­ga­niz­ers part­ner with WXCY-FM, the Havre de Grace-based coun­try mu­sic sta­tion, to put on the live mu­sic.

Fri­day’s lineup in­cludes The Klas­six from 5 to 7 p.m. and Sam Grow from 8 to 10 p.m.

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