Blues, Brews and BBQ fest to come to Urbana this weekend

Urbana is about to be flooded with blues and barbecue enthusiasts. The Blues, Brews and BBQ Festival is coming to downtown Urbana this weekend, and the admission is free. The festival, which is sponsored by Fluid Events, will be held Friday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Saturday from noon to 2 a.m.

The festival will feature four breweries and 12 food stands ranging from barbecue to ice cream, smoothies and kettle corn. The event will kick off with blues performer Keith Harden and will continue with a lineup of 10 other musical artists over the two days.

Jeff Grant, owner and event manager of Fluid Events, said last year’s festival was “great” because of the 20,000 to 25,000 people who attended over the two-day period.

“To me, that is an overwhelming success,” he said.

Tara Holloman, manager at Fluid Events, said only a few thousand attended when the festival was first held in 2008.

“It had a huge turnout (last year),” she said. “They’re hoping to get at least 30,000.”

Grant said the planning for the event happens at least a year in advance and next year’s preparation starts a week after the festival wraps up. He added that booking the bands takes place eight to 10 months prior to the event itself.

He said community residents can expect lots of blues and “top-notch artists (and) really great barbecue.”

Holloman said last year the company brought in $20,000 worth of donations for the festival to run, and Fluid Events would ideally have everything be donation-driven.

As this is her first year working the event, Holloman said she is excited to see everything come together.

Dennis Reed, manager and owner of Li’l Porgy’s Bar-B-Q, said the restaurant will sell barbecued pork sandwiches and lemon shake-ups at the festival. With possibly five employees working this weekend’s event, Reed said he expects to sell about 1,200 sandwiches and is optimistic about the weather adding to a good festival experience.

“Sounds like it’s going to be the perfect weather ­— not too hot (and) no rain.”

He said people can expect to have fun, especially with the musical entertainment at the festival.

“It’s just that it’s a good time,” Reed said. “You see a lot of people; you hear great music.”

Grant said his favorite part of the festival is seeing the “thousands of people in the streets” and knowing the festival brought everyone together.

“For me, it’s the fact that I can sit back and watch those happy smiling faces,” he said.