In the late 70’s, the young, business-minded Jaycees were looking for a fund-raiser that reflected the culture and history of Chester County. When you travel the county, and smell the whole-hog barbecue being roasted over an open pit, you understand why Chester County is the self-proclaimed “barbecue capitol of the world.” Community whole-hog barbecues in Chester County, can be traced back to the early 1800s, and have continued into the 21st century. With this in mind, the Jaycees began a tradition that has lasted over 3 decades. The Jaycees chose downtown Henderson, surrounding the courthouse as the setting for the festival. The business lined district became the focal point. This provided an unique setting and offered a shaded, relaxed and charming atmosphere to provide a community event. The festival, founded as a family celebration, focused on the great BBQ, entertainment, community involvement and good times for all ages. The Chamber of Commerce began sponsoring the festival in the late 80’s, to continue this traditional community event.
ARTS AND CRAFTS
The popular Arts and Crafts area offers a wide array of tempting items. Food, antiques, hand-crafted arts and crafts, ceramics, clothing and non-profit civic and community groups fill the booths in downtown Henderson.
The Children’s Area continues to enlarge yearly to provide varied entertainment for our young visitors. Bouncy Houses, DanDee jumpers, Velcro walls, train rides, petting zoo, climbing wall, mechanical bull, kiddy tractor pull and many other activities are scheduled throughout the weekend.
Thomas Media, Inc. (WFKX, WHHM, WWYN, WZDQ) and Chester County Bank co-sponsor talent shows each year. The Youth Talent Show, held for ages 15 and under, is Friday night, starting at 7:00 pm. Then Saturday from, 3:00 pm-6:00 pm, the Adult Talent Show is held for ages 16 and over. Each show will have 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners. With 1st place winners receiving $500.00, it guarantees excellent talent and entertainment. This ever-popular event is eagerly anticipated each year. It provides entertainment and excitement as the audience cheers on their selection.
Each year the BBQ Festival offers new attractions, with the latest being an Art Gallery which was introduced in 2002 and became a crowd favorite. Mike Porter was the lead artist in the gallery exhibition. He was joined by Freed-Hardaman University students and other local artists, who displayed their work in the Chester County Civitan Building. We hope this attraction grows each year with increased artist participation.
The Main Event is the hickory smoked, open-pit barbecue. Producing “real barbecue” takes patience, skill and experience. On Wednesday night the 1st of 28 hogs start cooking for the 3 day festival. By 10 am Thursday, the pork BBQ and all the fixings are ready for sale. Originally only barbecue was on the menu, but chicken and ribs have been added by popular demand. The cooking continues almost around the clock until Saturday afternoon.
NO ADMISSION is charged for the 3 day festival, keeping it family friendly. A growing number of corporate and local sponsors provide funding to help cover the operating expenses. Some cost include: advertisement, tents, stage, sound system, kids area, some entertainment and a master chef. Sponsorship is a key factor enabling the BBQ Festival to grow and prosper and remain a free community event. Check our list of sponsors.
The Chester County Independent provides pre-coverage and information regarding entertainment, schedules of events, booth and vendors. It yearly has pages that showcase the community and local history surrounding the festival.
The Chester County BBQ Festival would not be possible without our volunteers. Between 50-100 volunteers work in teams of 10-12 people behind the scenes pulling meat, making sandwiches, delivering food, cooking or putting meals together. They volunteer to operate the kids area, stage schedules, selling food or just answering questions. By late Saturday afternoon, they are hot, tired and smell of BBQ smoke but are proud to be part of the tradition that has made The Chester County Barbecue Festival a community success.