By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
5 Questions for Jim Barco

About Jim Barco

Age: 57
Hometown: Miami
Length of time in Gainesville: More than 12 years
Education: Bachelor’s degree in business from Catawba College; master’s degree in higher education from Florida State University
Occupation: Thinking out of the box revolutionary. Nothing is as it once was anymore. (He’s actually senior vice president for institutional advancement at Brenau University.)
Most interesting job: Minor-league baseball umpire, discovered my skin wasn’t that thick
Family information: Wife Janie, the best person I know; daughter, two grandkids, and the dog Nicholas, a rock star at Murrayville Vet.

Each Monday, “5 Questions” asks someone in our community to answer five questions about their lives. If you know someone who would be a good subject for this feature, send their name and contact information to

By day, Jim Barco is the chief fundraiser for Brenau University. But lately, he’s as well known for his love of barbecue. A few years ago, he got the idea of bringing a high-profile barbecue cook-off to Brenau as a way to raise money for scholarships for local students.

The result of his idea is a festival that grows larger and more popular each year. Today, The Times asks Jim Barco five questions about barbecue.


1. How did you get the idea to develop the Brenau Barbecue Championships?

Peggy and Don Sprabery of Pass Christian, Miss., introduced me to the power of fundraising through barbecue.

Their daughter, Genevieve, was a student at Brenau and I was visiting them on the coast. They were raising over $100,000 for the local symphony. It seemed like a no-brainer, except we were known for theater, art and music. In the early days, the uninitiated thought heresy was being committed.

But in the end, they saw a barbecue festival uses elements of theater, art and music to create its allure. We also wanted to find a vehicle that would attract people to campus who had not necessarily been here before.

The best assessment to that goal came from the late John Jacobs Jr., who said, “for every 10 people he saw, he knew one!”


2. How much planning goes into each year’s event?

To answer “a lot,” is too simplistic.

We have incredible volunteers, a Queen of Hops and Barley, a priest who is responsible for the weather, Dixie Truelove who keeps the Backyard Braggarts in line, Debbie Thompson working with the vendors (incredible vendors: jewelry, art, crafts, pottery, fashions, handmade soaps, sauces and rubs, and a huge Tupperware booth), and a physical plant staff that never stops until the job is finished.

We also are always trying to keep the festival fresh and will this year with the introduction of North Hall High School’s jazz band.

Yes, this is an event to raise monies for local student scholarships, people who will make their career here, raise a family and be productive members of society. But it is also a community development activity, one that we can attend without having to travel great distances.

And people marvel at the number of people they know and don’t know in attendance. That, and watching hundreds of kids run around crazy, makes it worthwhile. It reflects an involved community that can, at one place and time, smile and let its collective hair down.


3. To what do you attribute your love of barbecue?

Being raised right and having attended college in North Carolina. Everyone in North Carolina loves barbecue, or at least they are violating the law if they don’t. Actually, I think the requirement is in its state constitution.


4. The barbecue circuit has grown significantly over the last few years. Why do you think this has become such a sport?

The baby boomers grew up competing, and when their shoulders, backs and legs gave out, they turned to games affecting the stomach. Really, everyone can cook one thing better than just about anyone else in the neighborhood, and if it is barbecue, well, you are going to be real popular. Plus, as a sport, it involves smoke and fire, bringing the caveman out in each of us — except for the great women competitors, that is.


5. How do you see the Brenau Barbecue Championship helping raise the profile of Brenau University?

It brings all kinds of people to our campus. Judges from 12 states, teams from nine, people we know, and those who have never been on our campus. And, believe it or not, there is the national barbecue media. They all rave about the reception they receive here, here being both Brenau University and this community.

Just to know that a university is concerned about local students — still called townies at other places — and wants to be a part of that community raises our profile.

But as one who during a good part of his career tried to bring people together, I haven’t found an event that does it better than this concept. So even if barbecue — a noun mind you, a product that results from low and slow cooking by wood and/or charcoal means, not a verb that so many mistake it for — is not your thing, then we have vendors offering wonderful summertime goods.

And plenty of Brenau student volunteers who will be graduating soon. Maybe one of them will soon be a nurse and save your life. Life is like that.


Bonus question: Tomato-based sauce or vinegar-based?

On sandwiches, vinegar; on ribs, tomato-based. But both must accentuate the taste, otherwise it becomes just the sugar in Coca-Cola.

Regional events