WINTER GARDEN For the last five years, Winter Garden has brought Southern soul to life with an annual festival held downtown. Saturday marks the city’s sixth annual Blues and BBQ Festival, which could be the largest one yet.
More than than 10 vendors will be filling the air with the smell of barbecue during the festival, including Grandma's BBQ, Ellie Lou’s BBQ, Uncle Eddies Bar-B-Q, 4Rivers Smokehouse and Orlando Jerk.
“It’s our first time participating in this, but we’ve checked out the previous years and it’s aways been a great turnout,” said Courtney Conner from Black Market Ribs. “The vendors have always sold out of food, so that’s a good sign.”
And when it comes to barbecue, everyone has a different way of cooking their meats, from different rubs and spices to various types of sauces. And with each variation comes different flavors.
“Everything we do with a dry rub,” Conner said. “A lot of people like it that way, but other people don’t. It’s whatever your preference is.”
And with more than 10 barbecue vendors, this year’s festival will boast a wide variety of meat.
“(Our barbecue is) a tribute to every region - Kansas style, Memphis style, Carolina style,” said Leigh Doyle, vice president of Ellie Lou’s BBQ. “It’s a tribute to barbecue from around the country.”
But the festival isn’t just about the barbecue. It’s also about the music.
Three different blues performers - Souliz, TC Carr and the Bolts of Blue, and the Damon Fowler Group - will each take turns serenading the crowd with soulful blues music throughout the evening’s festivities.
Souliz is relatively new to the blues scene, but after winning first place at the Suncoast Blues Challenge in September, the band competed in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis last week. They placed second at the competition out of nearly 120 blues bands from across the world. With that win and a CD set to release this year, the group is eager to become part of Florida’s festival circuit.
“We’re looking forward to the festival,” said the band’s founder Tony Fullwood, who plays the bass. “It should be a good time. We just enjoy playing together.”
TC Carr and the Bolts of Blue featuring Josh Nelms will take the stage after Souliz.
Carr got his start playing harmonica and became well known throughout the blues circuit in both Florida and the U.S. In addition to his harmonica skills, he has also taken on the role of lead vocalist in his group.
The festival will close out with a performance from the Damon Fowler Group. Fowler was one of the featured performers at last year’s festival and is known for his skills as a blues guitarist.
But whether you come out for the food or the music, Winter Garden’s annual Blues and BBQ Festival is always a hit with the locals.
“It’s awesome, and it just gets bigger and bigger every year,” Doyle said. “It’s a great time, and the city does a great job organizing the whole thing.”
Contact Brittany Gaines at [email protected].