The event replaced the popular festival that attracts crowds by the thousands annually as organizers tried to balance celebrating all things barbecue with keeping vendors and customers safe. Instead of a weekend full of mutton and burgoo, the block party ran from 10:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Saturday.
While the event still featured most of the local restaurants and organizations that have long been fixtures of the festival, local barbecue restaurant Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn declined an invitation to attend. Organizer Allen Payne says they communicated with the restaurant on Parrish Ave. but the timing of the event and demand for their product meant Moonlite had to decline. Payne says Moonlite Bar-B-Q will return to the event in 2022.
Moonlite Bar-B-Q co-owner Pat Bosley says they also had concerns with keeping employees safe in their mobile restaurant, saying they felt they couldn’t safely operate by the river at this time.
Still, Payne says they did try to operate by CDC guidelines while respecting people’s wishes if they wanted to wear a mask or not, noting Saturday was a good day for the event.
But for local organizations and churches operating booths like Precious Blood Catholic Church, having even a scaled down event is better than last year. Members of the church’s barbecue team say they raise thousands of dollars every year. Parishioner Stefanie Oller says the past year has been tough on all the local churches who use the festival as a fundraiser but adds the block party is a welcome sign of normalcy returning.
(This story was originally published May 8, 2021)