Roots 'N' Blues 'N' BBQ brings headliner Al Green to Columbia

With bigger names and more BBQ than ever, the festival returns to rock CoMo.

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It’s that time of year again, y’all. Thousands of people will head downtown today and tomorrow to jam to the blues and nom on some ‘que at the sixth annual Roots 'N' Blues 'N' BBQ Festival.

“A lot of things have stayed the same," festival director Jessica Brown says. "A lot has changed."

Brown and a small group of volunteers are always making little tweaks and changes to the festival year to year. This year, there will be more watering stations as well as a reorganization of the festival space to accommodate larger audiences.

The festival’s fame certainly increases each year, as festival-goers came to Columbia from 33 different states, plus Canada, to attend the shows.

The festival has hosted some big names in the past, such as Fitz & The Tantrums as well as Mavis Staples. This year brings Al Green, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Wanda Jackson.

Brown says she and her team try to improve the lineup each year to bring bigger names to Columbia.

Like last year, the festival will have three stages, two of which require paid admission. The festival introduced paid admission three years ago and charged $35 for a one-day pass and $60 for both days in 2011. This year, the prices have bumped up to $55 and $75, respectively.

The free area, the KOPN Community Stage at Flat Branch Park, features mostly local acts and is also where the winners of the BBQ competition will be announced. The BBQ competition area is also open to the public.

For festival-goers with smartphones, there is a free “Roots 'N' Blues” app that provides a map, each stage’s lineup and a “My Schedule” feature that will keep track of specific shows the user wants to attend.

The barbecue competition is the largest the festival has ever had. Sixty-five teams will compete for cash prizes and bragging rights, but their food is not for sale. There will be plenty of barbecue vendors on site, though.

Junior Brian Reitz is returning to the festival after first attending in 2011. Though he gets his tickets for free through his work at The Blue Note, he said he would have paid to go this year anyway.

“I’m really excited to see Al Green, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Believers,” he says.

Reitz says he has been to other music festivals where he knows more of the performers, such as LouFest in St. Louis, but he enjoys the setup of Roots 'N' Blues more than others.

“It’s comfortable, and it’s cool being able to stand on Eighth Street and watch someone that people paid hundreds of dollars to see at Madison Square Garden,” he says.

The festival begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday.

BOX INFO

Ticket info 1-day general admission: $55 Weekend pass: $75 Tickets are available at rootsnbluesnbbq.com, The Blue Note or the MSA/GPC Box Office. Gerbes and Dillons stores also sell tickets.

By the numbers: 22 local artists and acts who have performed in the festival since its inception 33 states festival-goers travelled from for Roots 'N' Blues last year 65 record-breaking number of teams participating in the BBQ competition this year 50,000 expected attendee's this year

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