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Barbecue and bluegrass festival today at Nash Farm

By Jason A. Smith

Approximately 5,000 fans of down-home, country music and good food are expected to assemble in Henry this weekend, for an annual event benefiting victims of domestic violence.

The Simply Southern Jubilee Bluegrass & Bar-B-Que festival begins today and goes through Sunday, at Nash Farm Battlefield, at 4361 Jonesboro Rd., in Hampton.

The event is sponsored by the Henry County Chamber of Commerce Convention and Visitors Bureau, Henry County Parks and Recreation, and Haven House, a domestic-violence shelter located in McDonough.

Sarah Robbins, the Chamber's tourism director, explained that the shelter's leadership approached the county about putting this year's event together, for their own benefit as well as that of local residents. She said the festival represents a "good fit" between the county and Haven House.

"The ... bureau is always trying to attract visitors to the community, but also to give residents something to do, so they don't have to go outside the community for events," Robbins said. "So our hope is that this will be a great event for residents to come to, and that it will be successful for the Haven House."

More than 20 barbecue teams, eight of which are based in Henry County, will vie for the title of grand champion in three cooking categories - ribs, pork shoulder and whole hog. A total of 56 judges will evaluate the entries in the competition, which is sanctioned by the Memphis Barbecue Network. The overall winner of the cookoff will be awarded $1,500 Saturday, and will go to the 2009 Memphis in May world championships next month.

In addition, nine bluegrass bands will perform Friday and Saturday, with country singer Daryle Singletary closing out the music portion of the festival with a concert Saturday night.

Sunday, the Parks and Recreation department will sponsor two Civil War re-enactments of the Battle of Lovejoy Station. Ashleigh Roell, recreation specialist for the department, said the re-enactments will bring the Civil War era to life for those in attendance.

"Everybody's going to hear those cannons and think they're under siege," she joked.

This year marks the second year for the bluegrass component of the event, and the first for the barbecue portion.

Although there is no set goal for the amount of funds organizers of the festival hope to raise, Robbins noted that Haven House has generated more than $18,000 in sponsorships for the event.

"Once the bills are paid, ... we'll be able to see how much we can give to [Haven House and Nash Farm]," Robbins said.

Haven House board member, Charles Woodruff, said the weekend's events will enable the shelter to generate funds in a way that is often difficult for many non-profit organizations to accomplish.

"Haven House has been looking for an event that we can be a part of year after year," Woodruff explained. "The barbecue competition allows [us] to have an opportunity for a long-term event. Just as important, is the ... opportunity to promote Henry County and tourism within our [area]."

Woodruff said several of the "great teams" who will display their barbecuing skills have been recognized in similar competitions in other locations. "Some have won world championships in previous years," he noted. "I know the local teams will be equally as good."

In addition to the shelter, a portion of the proceeds will go to benefit Nash Farm, Robbins said.

The festival's hours are as follows: today from 3-10 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m., to 8 p.m.; and Sunday from 10 a.m., to 4 p.m.

The cost for admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children six years old and above. Children 5, and under, get in free.