Suwannee Democrat

Jasper News

July 22, 2011

Smokin' on the Suwannee BBQ Festival today, tomorrow

Live Oak — SPIRIT OF THE SUWANNEE MUSIC PARK, LIVE OAK, FLA - It’s time for the 3rd Annual Smokin' On The Suwannee BBQ Festival July 22-23 at the beautiful Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Fla. If you love the smell and taste of barbecue, this is one event you do not want to miss! The sweet smoked flavors will draw you right to the spot where all the action is and before you know it, you‘ll be chopping down on some good ole Southern barbecue!

A professional barbecue contest sanctioned by the Florida BBQ Association, The Smokin’ On the Suwannee BBQ Festival is by Live Oak’s Damon Wooley and draws professional cook teams from all over the Southeast who compete for more than $13,000 in cash, prizes and a chance to qualify for the prestigious Jack Daniels World Championship BBQ contest and the American Royal BBQ contest in Kansas City! This third year’s sold out event features 45 professional cook teams competing and Wooley is having to turn down would-be competitors! Folks, this is some SERIOUS COMPETITION!!!

Wooley, an FSU graduate who works with the Suwannee County School District, competes in bass fishing contests and practices his own BBQ talents almost daily, got the idea a little more than three years ago to host his own contest on the banks of the famous Suwannee River! Working between teaching, coaching, being a husband and father and doing other civic duties, this go-getter rounded up sponsors, booked the event at the SOSMP and began registering competitors. Before he knew it, it was a go! “I started competing in 2008 when I joined the Florida BBQ Association,” Wooley said last week as he visited with his friends the Swamp Boys Championship BBQ Team at the SOSMP where the team was producing a barbecue school over the weekend. “I went over to Perry and competed, won and got hooked!” Wooley stated. It didn’t take him long to realize he wanted Live Oak to have a contest, and he set about putting one together to meet his own standards, as well as the Florida BBQ Association’s standards. “I wanted my contest to make competitors want to come,” he said. Wooley said barbecue competitors need good sites, good payouts to the winners, a competition entry site close to competitors’ cooking sites and most of all, lots of power to handle all the electrical needs. The SOSMP met all those requirements and soon, Wooley had his own festival which is now the second largest in the state of Florida. Not bad for a Suwannee County guy who now makes his Facebook friends jealous almost nightly with what he’s putting on the barbecue for supper that night!

Something new this year will be the kids’ competition at 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 23. Kids may enter one of two categories - ages 6-12 and 13-17- for $10 per person. Grills, pork chops and chicken will be provided while competitors must bring their own utensils and additives. Entry is limited to the first 15 in each category, Wooley said. Contact Wooley at 386-590-6038 to enter.

The festival is held at the SOSMP where you will find a Spanish moss-draped forest of more than 700 acres, a cypress tree lined spring-fed lake, fresh water fishing and canoeing, wildlife habitat, bird watching, golf cart rental, mini and disk golf, bicycling, hiking, entertainment and delicious food in the Music Hall and the SOSMP’s Craft Village, Store of the Village, radio studio broadcasting each Sunday evening from 5- 7 p.m. and ice cream shop that will surely please all who visit these events. Along with the many family friendly activities offered by the SOSMP, there will also be a Family Fun Zone at this year’s festival including bounce houses, water slides and more. Wooley said there’s entertainment in the Festival area from time to time this year also.

Tickets to the festival are $2 at the gate. Wooley urges guests to be sure and purchase some award winning barbecue from the teams that are vending, and there will be many.

Wooley reminds everyone that proceeds from this year’s contest will help support the Justin Starling Memorial Scholarship fund.

The SOS Café and Restaurant will also be open during this event and will have available delicious food and beverages at regular prices as well as weekend specials. Entertainment in the Music Hall Friday and Saturday night include Mike Mullis’ Kids Under 18 Talent Night July 22 and Mike Mullis and his band WhooWheee July 23 for a 50s Sock Hop with music, dancing, contests for best dressed and much, much more. Music Hall doors open at 5 p.m. and events begin at 8 p.m. each night.

For more information about the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park or this event, or to make reservations to spend the weekend in one of the SOSMP’s cabins, rent a campsite or RV site, call us at 386-364-1683, email or go to You may also contact the SOSMP to inquire about any of the many exciting events coming up this year at the SOSMP such as the 311 Pow Wow, Blackwater Music Festival, Labor day Weekend Get-A-Way, Bear Creek Music and Art Festival and much, much more!

The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park is located at 3076 95th Drive 4.5 miles north of Live Oak, Fl off US 129 at the famous Suwannee River. The park is 4.5 miles south of Interstate 75 and 4.5 miles north of Interstate 10 off US 129. Keep an eye out for the SOSMP sign and white painted board fence!

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