BUCKHANNON – The Almost Heaven BBQ Bash will return to Buckhannon in June 2023.
The City of Buckhannon convened a special meeting of the Consolidated Public Works Board Monday to approve a request for the two-day barbecue competition and festival, which is slated for Friday, June 16 and Saturday, June 17, 2023.
City and county officials and board members of the BBQ Bash convened at City Hill for a press conference, inviting local media entities to assist in announcing the event’s return after a several-year hiatus during which it took place at Stonewall Resort in Lewis County.
“I want to thank everybody for bringing this here and for meeting with us and for making Buckhannon home once again — do I dare say, where it belongs – for everybody here to enjoy,” Mayor Robbie Skinner said. “We’re going to make this a great success.”
The event will take place at Jawbone Park in downtown Buckhannon, and the city anticipates accommodating thousands of visitors for the barbecue competition among some of the top-ranked Kansas City Barbecue Society teams in the U.S., which typically cook up chicken, pork, ribs and brisket.
“The City of Buckhannon has invested heavily into Jawbone Park over the years and that is where the event is going to be housed,” Skinner said. “We do have some streets that will be closed in the immediate proximity to Jawbone Park, but all the traffic through downtown will still be able to funnel through Main Street. The event will be south of Main Street, in the event space that we have created in Jawbone Park. It’s going to be a very nice event and it’s going to be a large event.”
This will be the first time the Almost Heaven BBQ Bash has taken place in Buckhannon since 2015.
“We have been working with the BBQ Bash board for about a year trying to attract this event back because, in its infant stages, there were some miscommunications between the city and the BBQ Bash board, but those have long been resolved and we’re working together,” Skinner said. “We’re partners and all the board members reside here in Upshur County. This is where it began and with the city making significant investments in Jawbone Park, the infrastructure is the most important key fact. The infrastructure is there for this to be a huge success, whereas it really wasn’t when the BBQ Bash first began.”
City Recorder Randy Sanders said the event has the complete support of the community grassroots group Create Buckhannon.
“Jody and her team came to a recent Create Buckhannon meeting, presented the plans and they voted unanimously to step aside that weekend and instead of having a traditional Festival Friday, we will be opening Jawbone Park exclusively to the BBQ Bash for that weekend,” Sanders said. “Create Buckhannon will be taking a break from the Festival Fridays’ activities so the barbecue bash can have exclusive use of all the facilities there. Create Buckhannon showed local, hometown support to say, ‘Let’s all get behind this event and make it a success.’”
President of the Almost Heaven BBQ Bash Jody Light said the event will look quite a bit larger than its previous appearance in 2015.
“We will have a lot of barbecue vendors, and we will have other food vendors,” Light said. “This year , we had about 15 or 20 and we’ve increased the crafters, which Jennie Barnette handles and does a fabulous job. It’s also grown with teams; we’ve had teams from as many as 20 states and the first year I think we had five or six states represented, so it has grown exponentially.”
She said their event has reached national acclaim, with Travelocity recognizing it as one of the top 25 barbecue events in the country.
“Don’t ask me how that happened, but it was there, so we’re appreciative of Robbie and all the folks with the city who have made this possible,” Light said. “They put a lot of the work in and answered our questions and we’re looking forward to it; we’re home.”
Light said they housed the event at several venues, including Stonewall Resort, but Jawbone Park suits their needs the best.
“There’s nothing negative about that facility; it’s beautiful, they’re cooperative, helpful,” Light said. “They are undergoing some significant changes and renovations in the spring of 2023 which obviously gave us some concern about the space and availability.”
Skinner said the event will require a cooperative effort on the part of the entire Buckhannon-Upshur community.
“I don’t want this to be lost on anyone: this is a community effort from the county commission to City Council, to the BBQ Bash board, to Public Works employees and administration here with the city,” Skinner said. “This is an all-hands-on-deck operation and everybody rowing the boat in the same direction – kind of an event and an initiative.”
Check out the group’s website for more information about the event and updates as 2023 approaches.