Smell and taste barbecue. Sing the blues. The 16th South Carolina Festival of Discovery takes over Uptown Greenwood Thursday through Sunday.
More than 80 competitive barbecue teams are competing for $25,000 in cash that is on the line for this Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned event.
Teams are coming from the Carolinas, Alabama, Virginia, Georgia and elsewhere. KCBS judges are coming from across the South and even New York.
KCBS is the world's largest organization of barbecue and grilling enthusiasts, with some 200 contests annually. Festival of Discovery ranks among top KCBS competitions in the Southeast.
The South Carolina Festival of Discovery celebrates history, food, culture, arts and crafts and music associated with Carolina barbecue, black kettle hash and the blues. There is a barbecue and hash cook-off, with live entertainment and the Blues Cruise at numerous Uptown locations. There will are family-friendly amusement rides and more.
For competition barbecue teams, the food rivalry starts Friday with the Anything Goes and Dessert competitions. Saturday, teams compete in blind judging of four meat types: chicken, pork, pork ribs and beef brisket.
The public gets in on the judging fun Saturday with People's Choice.
People's Choice tickets are $1 each; $5 buys five tickets and one vote for People's Choice.
Tickets will be available for purchase at a Pepsi trailer, at the corner of Oak Avenue and Main Street, from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. People's Choice winners are announced at 5 p.m. Saturday from the CenturyLink main stage.
A number of competitive teams are also selling barbecue during the event.
Randall Bowman, 42, of Cumming, Georgia, and his competition team -- Deep South BBQ -- have competed in the Festival of Discovery for more than a decade. His team includes his wife, Amanda, and occasionally their sons, Shaw and Cash.
Bowman said he's been in competition barbecue since 1998. Additionally, Bowman said more than 20 of the cook teams at Festival of Discovery now also use one of his made-to-order Deep South Smokers.
"There is not an open seam anywhere in these," Bowman said. "These are welded, without a screw or rivet anywhere -- handcrafted in Cumming, Georgia."
Bowman has been building smokers since 2011, first for himself, then, family, friends and fellow cook teams began asking if he could build them. A business was born.
"Ours are also insulated and gravity fed," Bowman said. "Because they are insulated, there's no heat on the outside and you can use automotive paints to make it exactly as you want it."
Bowman said he's sent smokers to Australia, South Korea, the Netherlands and across the continental United States, plus Hawaii.
Key to barbecue, Bowman said, is low and slow cooking.
"In America, barbecue started out as a way to cook a less-expensive cut of meat and make it more tender," Bowman said. "It's an art form. For example, brisket is not a naturally tender cut of beef. International competitors who do a lot with lamb can do the same thing."
Within KCBS judging, Bowman said over-cooked, mushy pork is a no-no, as well as pork ribs where meat completely falls off the bone, or brisket that falls apart. Bowman said he knows when his meats are ready by feel and look and time it spent cooking.
"I don't have a thermometer on the door of my own personal smoker," Bowman said.
Bowman said he organizes a bunch of barbecue events as well, including the National BBQ Cup in Nashville and 'Cue N Cumming in Georgia, and he sits on the KCBS marketing committee.
"I tell organizers that Greenwood's Festival of Discovery is one that they need to go look at," Bowman said. "To see the way the community gets behind this event is amazing. Greenwood has figured something out. The economic impact has to be monstrous...Barbecue guys, their families and festival attendees go in shops and restaurants. We can park on Thursday night and we don't have to get in the car again until we leave. We have a blast.
"So many of these events are in high school parking lots or fields out in the middle of nowhere. Festival of Discovery is nice because there is so much to do," Bowman added. "It's one of the first competitions we sign up for every year. We thrive on faith, family and food."
For Robby Lybrand, 34, of Greenwood, and his cook team, Que It Up!, the 16th Festival of Discovery will be their first competitive barbecue competition. They are among 12 Greenwood County teams and dozens from across the country vying for serious bragging rights and prize money. Que It Up! is participating in Anything Goes and Desserts, the four competition meat categories and People's Choice.
"We come to Festival of Discovery year after year," Lybrand said, of he and his wife, Jennifer. "Finally, this year, I decided to enter...It's the biggest barbecue festival around here. We figured, jump in head first and go big or go home. I love cooking barbecue."
Lybrand, who has a culinary school degree from Johnson and Wales University, teaches culinary arts at Swofford Career Center in Inman, South Carolina. He previously owned a local catering and restaurant business in Uptown Greenwood. The restaurant closed in 2012.
"Welding students where I teach made the smoker our team is going to use," Lybrand said. "Several of them have said they are coming down for the competition to see it in action. We've been real impressed with it." The smoker sports a painted pig wearing Rastafarian dress.
Lybrand said Que It Up! includes Jennifer Lybrand, Paige and Russell Holley, Lybrand's brother, Billy Lybrand, John Elmore, Todd Philcox and Tyler Campbell.
"Pulled pork and ribs are our strongest," Lybrand said. "We're figuring out brisket and chicken...Competition barbecue is not like what you would cook at home or for a restaurant."
The 16th SC Festival of Discovery in Uptown Greenwood, July 7-10.
People's Choice and competition teams selling barbecue:
Check out more than 80 competition barbecue teams competing in this Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned event. Several are also participating in Saturday's People's Choice competition, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., where the public purchases tickets and casts votes for their favorite. And, a number of teams are also selling to the public.
Additional food vendors are selling snow cones, ice cream, sweets, lemonade, Philadelphia-style cheese steaks, corn dogs, funnel cakes, other deep-fried foods, gourmet macaroni and cheese, roasted corn, turkey legs and more.
Hot dog eating contest:
And, South Carolina residents age 18 and up, or those younger, with a parent or legal guardian's signature on a waiver to enter, along with a valid form of identification, can enter the Skin's Hot Dog Eating Contest. It's from noon to 1 p.m. Saturday, on the CenturyLink Main Stage. Cash prizes are award for first through third place. Four-time winner Michael Diebold is coming back to try for his fifth win. Last year, Diebold ate 18 hot dogs in 12 minutes. Other competitors are gearing up to possibly challenge Diebold, including those who train in competitive eating.
6:30-7:15 p.m. July 7, by US Foods
11:30 a.m.-noon, July 8, by US Foods
5-5:15 p.m., July 8, with Primo Grill
11-11:15 a.m.; 3:15-3:30 p.m., July 9, with Primo Grill