By Joel Hall
One of the age-old traditions of Historic Jonesboro has been to host an annual fund-raiser behind the old Clayton County Jail (now known as the Clayton County History Center), featuring the famous barbecue of former county sheriff, Bill Lemacks.
After a two-year hiatus, the organization and Lemacks will revive the tradition.
This Saturday, from 5 to 8 p.m., Historical Jonesboro will have its annual barbecue in the backyard of the Clayton County History Center, located on King Street in Jonesboro, behind the Jonesboro Masonic Lodge.
Barbara Emert, president of Historical Jonesboro, said long-time residents of the county have been awaiting the return of the barbecue.
"People missed it and asked about it," said Emert. "For the last two years, we didn't do it and Bill Lemacks was interested in reviving it.
"It's kind of like Taste of Clayton," Emert said. "It's something that people look forward to."
Amanda Roberts, chairperson of the barbecue committee, described Lemacks, who served as sheriff from 1983 to 1996, as an "expert cook." She said in the past, Lemacks has traveled around the state hosting barbecue-related events for the Georgia Sheriff's Association.
"He's got a very good reputation," said Roberts. "His barbecue is like no one else's. He's retired, but he's doing one for us."
Roberts said the event will feature musical entertainment from Bound for Glory, a gospel group from Liberty Baptist Church in Riverdale, as well as Historical Jonesboro's popular Dessert Auction. More than two dozen cakes, pies, and other baked goods will be sold to the highest bidder.
"They are homemade cakes made by members of Historical Jonesboro and friends," said Roberts. "Some of them go for pretty high, depending on who made them. It's another draw to the barbecue."
In addition to the barbecue, visitors will have a chance to tour the Clayton County History Center. A treasure trove of records, artifacts, and jail memorabilia, the center is usually only open to people taking the Historical Landmarks Tour, offered by the Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
On Saturday, the center will host a rare open house in conjunction with the barbecue. Visitors will be able see portraits of all of the county's past sheriffs, actual weapons issued by antebellum-era sheriff's deputies, a reconstructed version of an old jail cell, jailers' logs from the late 1800s, and many relics gathered from around the county.
Ted Key, a member of the board of directors for Historical Jonesboro and curator of the history center, hopes that people will take advantage of the rare opportunity.
"The only time it is open is for the trolley bus tours," said Key. "It is only open one [other] time during the year, and that is during the annual barbecue.
"There are important documents and deed papers dating back to 1859, when the county was created," said Key. "The stories and tales we tell about people and places in the county make it a very unique place to visit."
Tickets for the barbecue are $6 and can be purchased in advance at Stately Oaks Plantation in Jonesboro. The dinner includes a barbecue pork sandwich, coleslaw, Brunswick stew, and sweet tea.
For more information, call Stately Oaks Plantation at (770) 473-0197.