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Bob Sykes BBQ and Blues Festival: The Marvel City’s Summer Kick Off

Bessemer, Alabama, is a family-friendly destination located in the Southwest corner of the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Area. The city’s downtown area is on the National Register of Historic Places, and contains a number of historical locations including the Jefferson County Courthouse and Hall of History. Visitors will also find a variety of family-friendly attractions including Alabama Splash Adventure, Autobahn Indoor Speedway, and Roosevelt Park.


The Bob Sykes BBQ and Blues Festival has established itself as one of the top BBQ-themed events in Alabama over most of the past decade. This year’s event will take place May 20, at DeBardeleben Park in Downtown Bessemer. The festival gathers the best local and national blues performers and combines their music with Bob Sykes BBQ, for a one-of-a-kind experience. Attendees will also encounter activities for children in the Kids Corner, a marketplace full of vendors and sponsors, outdoor exhibits, and more. A portion the proceeds will go to benefiting Ady's Army, which helps support families who have children with autism. We got to interview Elaine Lyda, a representative of the event, to learn more about this unique fusion of BBQ and blues.


RAL: How long has the event been running?

EL: This is our 8th year of the Bob Sykes BBQ and Blues Festival.


RAL: How many annual participants do you draw?

EL: I would say it’s over 5,000, and it grows every year.


RAL: What demographic does your event attract? Children? Families? Couples?

EL: All of the above! It’s an event for all ages, kids 12 and under can enter free with a ticketed adult.


RAL: Take me through a day at the event.

EL: The gates open at 11 am and the festivities begin at noon. Many guests arrive early with their chair or blanket and set up their spot for the day. Sponsors have booths set up around the four-block park and will give away samples and prizes, plus vendors will be selling ice cream, tasty bites, apparel, and art. The Bob Sykes Food tent is the main attraction for delicious smoked BBQ and desserts. We also have a large Kids Corner with free activities and games. The VIP tent is available next to the stage. Tickets for this area are $125 and include free food, drinks, private parking, individual portlets, t-shirt, and great seating!


RAL: Will there be any guest appearances?  

EL: We have a variety of guests including The 313th Army Band Jazz Combo, Chris Simmons, Albert White MusicMaker Revue, Eight O'Five Jive, Markey Blue, The Norman Jackson Band, and Joe Louis Walker.                                                                                                      


RAL: What dining options will attendees encounter?

EL: The Bob Sykes BBQ Food Tent includes BBQ sandwiches, ribs, smoked turkey, hot dogs, sides, desserts, and much more! Adult beverages include a local craft beer (Ghost Train), wines, and other choices available with proper ID.


RAL: What can an attendee expect to find for local lodging?

EL: Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa is not far from the event, and the Hyatt Regency is next to the Riverchase Galleria Mall. Both hotels are chic and upscale. Downtown Birmingham is not far, and there are many unique hotels downtown as well close to the Regions Field. The downtown area is the newly revitalized part of Birmingham. It’s awesome!


RAL: Are there any lodging specials that are set up specifically for the event?

EL: Our partner for the festival is where all the bands stay -- Holiday Inn Express Bessemer at 5001 Academy Lane, Bessemer.


RAL: What does this event mean to the community?

EL: It’s a positive event for the city of Bessemer and the entire state of Alabama. BBQ and Blues is a perfect combination that brings together people of all ages and backgrounds.


RAL: Does this drive business to your local economy?

EL: Yes! The local businesses sponsor the event. It’s a great way for supporters to meet face-to-face with their customers in the community. The excitement is in the air before and after the festival. Bob Sykes BBQ Restaurant is located one block from the festival. We meet people from all over the Southeast who attend the event and come to eat nationally known pit BBQ and homemade desserts.


RAL: Does the event support a special cause in the community?

EL: Yes, every year the festival has given thousands of dollars back to local charities. This year the festival will provide a portion of its proceeds back to Ady's Army. May 20th is also National Armed Forces Day, and we offer discounts to all active duty and retired veterans with Military ID.

For more information about the Bob Sykes BBQ and Blues Festival, please visit the event website.