When a Bargersville woman took in the sights and sounds of last year’s inaugural BBQ, Blues & Brew festival in downtown Columbus, she struggled to find sufficient words for her exultation.
“You’ve got all these craft beers on hand, you’ve got a bunch of barbecue places bringing out the big guns for people and — well, the whole place just smelled like heaven,” said Leah Huelsebusch, laughing at the memory.
Organizers of the second such Columbus event Saturday promise a bigger sensory smorgasbord, with three live blues acts, double the number of food vendors, and a children and family activity area added. Huelsebusch’s staff at Taxman Brewing Company will return with a couple of Belgian beers for attendees — a crowd that organizers believe could top last year’s estimate of 5,000 people.
“I had an awesome time,” Huelsebusch said. “For me, when I think about summer, I think of barbecue like pulled pork or brisket that’s been properly smoked a good, long time. And then you’ve got beautiful music, too.
“I’d say that’s pretty perfect.”
The event will unfold rain or shine, according to Steve Leach of The Garage Pub & Grill in Columbus.
Leach began hatching the idea for the gathering several years ago with business competitor and friend Kurt Schwartz, owner of Columbus’ Fourth Street Bar & Grill. It’s one of several downtown street-closing events, including the Mill Race Marathon After Party.
“Keep in mind anything we have outdoors is very weather dependent,” Leach said. “But beer, music and barbecue — there’s a broad spectrum of people that likes all of those a lot.”
One of the three acts, Bloomington’s Fistful of Bacon, reigns as the 2014 Indiana Blues Challenge winner. Another, Tophat Blues Revue, has been a favorite at The Garage and also the local Biggest Block Party Ever.
Tophat lead singer Mark Gravely, who lives in Norristown near Hope, loved his time at last year’s gathering. His foursome will present a mix of blues-adjusted covers from bands ranging from Steely Dan to Creedence Clearwater Revival, along with original material.
“It’ll be all right; I know that for sure,” Gravely said. “The baby hippies who hear us all call us a jam band.”
By that, he means the band will take a song and steer it in a new direction at the drop of an altered beat. And Gravely will make sure he brings his appetite, since he found the pulled pork last year to be as sweet as a funky guitar solo.
Columbus blues guitarist Mark “Soot Daddy” Neafus will perform between the two other acts. Last year, he also acted as something of a strolling musician.
“I really enjoy getting down off the stage and playing wireless out in the crowd, making a more personal connection through my music,” Neafus said.
Schwartz mentioned that at least one local downtown restaurant set an individual sales record at the 2014 event.
“Actually, all of us were packed,” he said.
What: Second annual BBQ, Blues & Brew downtown outdoor event.
When: 3 to 10 p.m. Saturday, rain or shine.
Where: Fourth and Washington streets in Columbus.
Music: Tophat Blues Revue, 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.; Fistful of Bacon, 7 to 10 p.m.; guitarist Mark “Soot Daddy” Neafus, performing at various times as a strolling musician.
Food: A variety of barbecue-style vendors will offer pulled pork, chicken and related fare.
Brew: 12 area craft brewers are selling a wide variety of beers, plus Four Roses Bourbon.
Children’s activities: Bounce houses, face painting, bungee bounce.
Information: BBQ, Blues & Brew Facebook page.