Barbecue is coming back to downtown Chandler, and, this time, there’s going to be plenty of it.
Twenty Arizona barbecue restaurants will supply ribs, pulled pork, brisket and chicken at Saturday’s Great American Barbeque & Beer Festival.
It’s a brand-new event designed to avoid the pratfalls of last year’s first-ever Downtown Chandler Barbecue Throwdown, where hungry crowds were turned away as vendors ran out of food and shut down their pits and smokers hours before the event was scheduled to close.
“At the Throwdown, we had barbecue teams from around the country participating in a competition regulated under the International Barbeque Cookers Association. It was an amazing concept, but the teams just couldn’t fulfill the hunger demands of the crowds,” says Landon Evans, organizer of the festival. “When you open at 10 and are out of food at 2 and the event stops at 8, there’s a major issue.”
“We’ve definitely learned from last year’s mistakes and have changed the format this year so we can maximize the experience. We’re focusing on restaurants and pairing foods, similar to the Scottsdale Culinary Festival or Devoured, events like that.”
In addition to eliminating food prep by competing teams and relying instead on restaurants used to feeding the masses, the festival will feature a lineup of more than 100 craft beers, including brews from Chandler’s SanTan Brewing Company.
Entertainment is also a bigger factor this year. Ska-punk band Reel Big Fish will headline amid a lineup of other bands. Activities include pig races, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle show, autographs by former Arizona Cardinals player Kwamie Lassiter, a farmers market and a kids play area.
Evans says advance ticket sales are three times what they were in 2010, and, thanks to nationally known headliners Reel Big Fish, organizers expect up to 10,000 guests.
“Be prepared to eat. It’s definitely about just having a good time and enjoying some great food that you can eat with your hands and wipe on your sleeve and not worry about table manners,” he says.
Admission is $10. Barbecue will cost $2 per sample or $4 per mini-plate, and beers, which come in 12-ounce cans or 16-ounce pours, will cost $4 to $5. Proceeds will benefit the Downtown Chandler Community Foundation’s grant program, which provides funds to nonprofit downtown organizations that support critical community needs.
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