Laurel Park turned into a haven for barbecue, cars, animals, adults and kids Saturday afternoon as the Gainesville Jaycees welcomed barbecue enthusiasts from around the state for the inaugural “Hawgin’ On Lanier” state championship competition.
In addition to the competition, there was a car show, cornhole tournament, petting zoo, pony rides, inflatables and bounce houses for kids.
The Jaycees helped organize and bring the event to Laurel Park, with 60 barbecue cooking teams of all varieties competing.
The Jaycees also sold tickets for a raffle contest. The money raised went toward the Empty Stocking Fund for Hall County.
““For the first year, the response has been (overwhelmingly) good. It seems like everyone’s really happy with the setup,” said Ryan Thompson, a Jaycees member and organizer of the event. “We had a pretty good crowd turnout for it being our first year. It’s amazing how many people have come up to us and said they never realized Laurel Park was here.
“I think one main reason we picked Laurel Park is because it’s such an awesome resource that we have right here in Hall County.”
Ryan Hudson, a Jaycees member and organizer along with Thompson, wanted Hall County and Laurel Park to benefit from the event.
“We looked at other areas, but we saw the resources and potential here to really utilize this park. The county did a great job working with us,” said Hudson. “My hands go down to Ryan Thompson. He’s done a great job. When the board of directors put together a plan that we wanted to do this; we asked Ryan to do it. He graciously accepted. He did an excellent job.”
Both Thompson and Hudson talked about the idea of making this an annual event, even as soon as next spring. Hudson said, “We see this doubling in size next year.”
Lisa Blackburn of Gainesville brought her son to the competition because her husband, Kevin Blackburn, was in the barbecue competition.
However, when she arrived, son Eli wanted to go on the Spiderman bounce house instead of looking at through the vendors.
“As soon as we pulled in he was like ‘Spider-Man, that’s what I wanna do.’ We just walked through and saw all the vendors, then came over here,” Blackburn said.
Renee and Roger Orr brought their three kids to the competition Saturday, and they bounced and ate barbecue.
“I thought it would be something fun to do with the family. We’ve had some barbecue, so its gone over pretty well,” Renee Orr said.
Orr also said she’d come back if the event returns.
Some of the winners from Saturday included the Four Smokin’ Bones, Big O’s Barbecue and Grill Sgt. teams.
For more informations on the Gainesville Jaycees and the Empty Stocking Fund for Hall County, visit www.gainesvillejaycees.org.