Monday, October 17, 2011



By Doc Lawrence

LYNCHBURG, TENNESSEE—It’s my favorite festival, a gala gathering of Americans and guests from other countries here in beautiful bucolic Tennessee. With the legendary Jack Daniel Whiskey Distillery next door, barbecue teams from throughout America are in their designated spaces practicing their food preparation techniques, joined in the nearby international courtyard by championship barbecue teams from many countries like Ireland, England, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany and many others.

The stakes are high here with the competitive goal to win one of the coveted awards announced late Saturday afternoon. It’s big cash along with the priceless prestige that comes with bringing home a trophy from the best event of its kind on the planet. “The Jack,” as it’s called, is the Super Bowl of championship barbecue.

Friendships just naturally come from this one-of-a-kind event. Here is where I first met the legendary Johnny Majors, the football player and coach who is held in much the same esteem here as other Tennessee greats like Andrew Jackson and Davy Crockett. Coach Majors, the quintessential Southern gentleman, is a longtime judge at “The Jack,” whose family pioneered this area where he grew up and lives.

Look around and you’ll see folks like Frank Spence, a Nashville native, former ranking executive of the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons and the nation’s top authority on Tailgatin.” Bruce Shelton, another Nashville denizen makes a frequent stop here and is one of the top folk art collectors and dealers anywhere. Olivia Thomason, one of America’s top folk artists, came to work on new paintings about the color and spirit of the event.

The countryside is bucolic and this city looks like a priceless painting by Grandma Moses. A tour of the Jack Daniel’s Distillery prompts an urge for a glass of the elixir over some ice and the Bluegrass music inspires some toe-tapping and even Tennessee-style cloggin.’

I come here because I love this place and the people. It’s Americana, Deep South, and historic but very contemporary in its own way. Here, good food, hickory smoke from the hundreds of grills and Tennessee whiskey blend perfectly with a diverse group of people from the earth’s four corners. Laughter, live music, children playing, adults devouring barbecue dominate everything. Good will abounds.

I come to perform my duties as a judge, but I am also here to interview and tell stories in my columns. For a few days each year, there is no better place to be for a curious writer.

NOTE: Read more about The Jack:

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