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Monday, April 25, 2011

Colonial Beach Blues Festival (Colonial Beach, Virginia, June 25-26)

One of the hottest and hippest events being held this summer is for sure the Colonial Beach Blues Festival, and anyone who is going to be on the mid-Atlantic coast or passing through the Washington, D.C., area in late June would be remiss in not stopping by for it.

This two-day event will be held Saturday and Sunday, June 25-26, and will feature more than a dozen musical groups, including the legendary Fiddlin’ Big Al Chidester, Beach Project, Blue Voodoo, Stacy Brooks, Anthony “Swampdog” Clark, Duffy Kane, Little Bit a Blues, Big Daddy Stallings, Cathy Ponton King, Bill Kirchen, the Nighthawks, Andy Poxon, and the Ubangis. Beyond being a great time and the musical event of the season, it is also being held for a good cause and will benefit the Organization for Autism Research.

“It’s going to be a blast!” impresario Dominick Salemi, organizer of the event, told the San Antonio Travel Examiner.

Venue for the Colonial Beach Blues Festival will be High Tidez on the Potomac, a local steakhouse, seafood restaurant, and bar located on the shores of the Potomac River that hosts musical events. Passes to the event cost $25 for two days and $15 one day and can be purchased at Populuxe (10 Hawthorn, Colonial Beach), by calling (804) 214-0312 or (804) 214-0883, or by emailing cbbluessociety@gmail.com. Official hotel for the event, and where many of the bands will be staying, is the historic art-deco-style Riverview Inn, and there are many other places to stay, including several historic bed and breakfasts and the fully refurbished — and haunted! — Bell House.

Colonial Beach itself is a funky little waterside town of about 3,300 people that was founded some 361 years ago and is located just a few miles from the birthplace of George Washington. Features include a number of cool antique and consignment shops; several great watering holes, including the Dockside, Lighthouse on the Bay, and Tiki Bar; a retro coffee shop and hangout crafted from an old ESSO station; and a three-mile stretch of beach that is great for swimming, fishing, and other recreational activities.

“You have to picture a beat beach town out of Kerouac,” Salemi said. “A beachfront setting with abandoned and derelict buildings, a dilapidated brick VFW hall, a weathered clapboard house serving as a motorcycle accessory shop, and a prefab high-rise condo. And as you look around and see all these kids hanging out at the retro custard stand, adults across the street enjoying wine and Thai food at a refurbished beach house, you think: ‘This place can go either way, straight to the top as a vacation destination and wicked cool retirement town or down straight to the dogs.’”

In the meantime, it is a great place to kick back and listen to some music, have a few drinks, and enjoy the shore.

Monday, April 18, 2011

CLCC 13th Annual BBQ Cook-Off (Canyon Lake, Texas, April 30)

Delicious smells of grilled and smoked delicacies of all sorts will fill the air Saturday, April 30, at the 13th Annual Canyon Lake Area Chamber of Commerce BBQ Cook-Off, where more than four-dozen teams will compete to have their favorite food items judged best. The event will be Lazy L&L Campground on River Road, along the banks of the Guadalupe River and about three miles south of Sattler, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Highlights of the popular event will include award-winning BBQ and other delicacies prepared by world-famous cookers, homemade desserts, live and silent auctions, arts and crafts, and a jail where people could have their friends locked up, requiring them to post bail to be released. Live entertainment will also be going on all day and include presentations by the Solid Gold Dancers and “Original Texas Music” by the band 277 South. And just walking around and looking at all the neat outdoor kitchens, grills, smokers, displays, and award-winning food items in progress is a special treat unto itself.

“This is just a little cook-off, it’s not sanctioned, but we have some real competitors here, some real contenders,” then-President Mandy Stewart of the Canyon Lake Chamber of Commerce said of the 2010 event. Many of the competitors, she said, like the event enough that they keep coming back to it year-after-year.

“Texas Regulators has been with us all 12 years,” Stewart said. They’ve never missed a cookoff.” Other perennials include Final Justice, Beer Belly BBQ, Bottle Cap Cookers, Family Tradition, M&M Grillers, and Saddle Tramps, and there are always eager newcomers as well.

“We come out every year for the chamber’s barbecue event,” said Jennifer Tharp, Comal County Criminal District Attorney and a member of the Final Justice cooking team (whose motto is “Sentencing Never Tasted So Good”). “We just have a blast out here!”

Arnold Hinajosa of the Texas Regulators cooking team — many of whose members are from the Houston area — has been coming to the Canyon Lake event every year since it began.

“We got recruited for this cook-off back 12 years ago,” Hinajosa said while working on shrimp brochettes stuffed with cream cheese and crab meat and wrapped in bacon at the 2010 event. “There were 14 teams that first year. We came up and just fell in love with Hill Country and we’ve been coming back ever since.”

Other longstanding participants in the event include Hampton Pratka and Jim Gallagher of Bottle Cap Cookers, out of Bulverde.

“This will be the fourth year we’ve cooked at Canyon Lake,” Pratka said of the event. “It’s a good family event and we have a great time. We’ll keep coming back.”

Visitors to the cook-off can buy brisket and ribs at the food tent prepared by the various competitors, and many of the participants are amenable to giving tastes of the items they are cooking at their outdoor kitchens, to include in some cases samples of the items they were entering in the various cook-off categories. (One of my personal favorites last year was a whole jalapeno pepper stuffed with cream cheese and lobster, wrapped in bacon, and grilled, by the Saddle Tramps).

Evan Payne, one of the musicians who entertained visitors to the event in 2010, summed up the cook-off pretty well.

“Everybody’s laid back and having a good time,” he said.

For more information about this great event, contact the Canyon Lake Area Chamber of Commerce online or call it at (830) 964-2223.