Back in 2007, the Central Bank of Boone County, then named Boone County National Bank, was turning 150 years old. The bank’s advertising agency, Woodruff Schweitzer, wanted to do something special to mark the occasion and came up with the idea of having the bank sponsor a free music festival and barbecue contest downtown.
The agency enlisted the help of Richard King, then-owner of The Blue Note and Mojo’s (now Rose Music Hall), who said, “Yeah, count me in.” The inaugural Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival, a two-day affair, debuted on a Friday night at Eighth and Broadway.
For the first five years, the barbecue contest was a key component, attracting more then 55 local restaurateurs and barbecue enthusiasts alike. “They were great people, so grateful to have this event in downtown Columbia,” King recalls.
But just as the barbecue contest became too logistically challenging, so did the fest’s downtown location, King said. In 2013, the fest moved to Stephens Lake Park, simultaneously expanding to three days.
Today’s iteration remains close to King’s original vision: an artist-driven event, committed to presenting top-notch musical talent, tasty barbecue and beverages in a laid back atmosphere. But King never imaged how wildly popular it would become.
“I didn’t think it would be hugely successful because it wasn’t mainstream top 40 music. There weren’t everyday household names,” he says.
This year’s fest has grown from 22 artists that first year to 30-plus, with an impressive lineup including the Avett Brothers, Grace Potter, Ben Folds and Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. King tries to include at least six local and regional artists, and easily attracts high caliber talent from elsewhere. Many agents and managers now call King to ask when bookings begin.
“We try to improve on every aspect of the festival every year,” King says. Especially on this 10th anniversary, that means new offerings — such as a contest to design the 2016 Roots N Blues N BBQ poster, historically done by Art Crew & Visuals Director Lisa Bartlett.
“We thought it would be a great [way] to celebrate our 10-year anniversary,” says Betsy Farris, president of Thumper Entertainment that puts on the festival. “So much good work. It was tough to decide.” The winning poster, designed by Columbian Kendall Pearl, will be available for purchase at the festival. A 10-year commemorative photo book, including photos from this year, can be pre-ordered online for November delivery, Farris say.
Also new is “The Front Porch Stage,” crafted from a 1960s grain trailer using barn wood and topped with a tin roof. Would-be musicians can pick from a variety of musical instruments, supplied by Palen Music, and channel their inner performers onstage. Post-fest, the stage will find a home at Logboat Brewing Company.
A “sober tent” will offer a comfortable setting for those who don’t consume alcohol. Inspired by a non-drinking friend who loves music festivals, Farris says the tent will have a direct line of sight to the Missouri Lottery stage and sell coffee, water, energy drinks and soft drinks and offer complimentary hard candy.
As always, there will be abundant food from around 25 vendors, including Smokin’ Chicks, Missouri Legacy Beef, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, newcomer Lyla’s Catering Company, and Sugar Fire Smokehouse from St. Louis. Broadway Brewery will roast a whole hog again, and many favorite food trucks will serve standards, as well as barbecue specials.
For more information about this year’s Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival, visit www.rootsnbluesnbbq.com.