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Barco: Why barbecue? Do you really have to ask?
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On May 30, Brenau University and an array of community volunteers will present a cultural feast - a professional barbecue-cooking competition for teams from around the South. For side dishes, there will be local cookers in it only for bragging rights, bluegrass bands and a host of other attractions that will contribute to a spring festival atmosphere.

Since Brenau University probably is better known for its genteel, tradition-laden Women's College where white-frocks young ladies still frolic around a May pole, the cutting-edge liberal arts institution that could be the home of a future medical school, the home of an opera center and fine arts galleries, a skeptic may ask why in the world will it host and event called Brenau, Barbecue and Banjos?

Two reasons: First and foremost, we are hosting the event purely to raise money for scholarships for local students. Second, it is our mission to become more engaged in the community, and we do that by creating events all people in the community might enjoy, things they can take their kids to on a warm spring Saturday afternoon. The Brenau campus is a meeting place where you can see old friends and make new ones, a barbecue championship provides an excuse for you to visit a place in your hometown that you may have heard about but have never experienced.

I have lived in this community for more than nine years. My principal responsibility is to help find resources to support Brenau University and the students we serve. Much of that involves funding scholarships for deserving students. A large majority of our students come from Hall County and environs. Each year Brenau awards undergraduate and graduate diplomas to at least 250 men and women from this area. Many of them stay put in the community, becoming nurses, teachers, occupational therapists, business leaders - the intellectual capital that drives the local economic engine. The way I see it, anything Brenau can do to enhance its role in that dynamic is a worthwhile activity.

We're still Brenau, however. So it is part of our culture - whether it is a theater production, an opera or a century-old tradition - to do it properly. Therefore our barbecue is part of an actual professional cookers' circuit, the Memphis Barbecue Network. Part science and part art, this is serious barbecuing. Get past Brenau's cadre of trained, certified judges, who are every bit as demanding of excellence as Simon Cowell, and you could have a shot at becoming the next American Barbecue Idol.

That's not all, however. In addition to the pro category, we will also host local grillers, whom we affectionately call "Backyard Braggarts" - firemen, police officers, surgeons and other friends and neighbors who want to prove they cook the best ribs, etc., in the county.

For those who attend, there will be plenty to eat.

Also, in the Brenau Amphitheater, you will be able to hear some high-quality bluegrass music as well - a program sanctioned by the Southeastern Bluegrass Association. Cindy Musselwhite of The Musselwhite Family is helping coordinate such a talented group of performers that many bluegrass aficionados attending the event will say, "Oh, you're having barbecue, too?"

There will be plenty of other attractions: One vendor who's signed up will have for sale some incredible grills that will cause most men to drool and cause their wives to stare in amazement. Others will be selling sauces, rubs, designer apparel and various products for summertime parties.

In addition to the fund-raising aspect, the other compelling reason for this event is that we believe it will help draw us closer as a community. I promise you that this will be a fine event. I believe this will become a "must do" community happening to kick off each summer for years to come.

I truly love barbecue. And if you do also, or love what our young people add to this community, then you'll want to be with us May 30th. Circle the calendar now; you deserve a good time.

Jim Barco is senior vice president institutional development at Brenau University. For more information about Brenau, Barbecue and Banjoes call him at 770-534-6161, e-mail him at or visit the Web site

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