Lake Alfred Bluegrass Bash Brings Blues & BBQ For Sixth Year
by James Coulter
Many years ago, Bracken Smith introduced the world to his famous barbecue eggrolls at Smoke On The Water in Winter Haven. His eggrolls have since brought massive success to his barbecue team and catering business, Kick Yo Butt BBQ.
Smith is now set to open The Brack Shack, a takeout eatery with first-come, first-serve seating in Auburndale. The restaurant is planned to open sometime this February. However, Smith will always have a special place in his heart for barbecue events such as the Lake Alfred Bluegrass Bash, which he attended last Saturday at Lions Park in Lake Alfred.
Smith served his signature eggrolls and other barbecue favorites,including brisket and pork sandwiches, naked and hand-breaded wings, bacon-wrapped meatballs, fried sweet pickles, and their new bacon jalapeno pork rinds.
He and his team with Kick Yo Butt BBQ have been attending the annual bluegrass and barbecue festival for the past five to six years. He loves being able to serve his signature barbecue, as well as engaging with the overall camaraderie of the event.
“Every time Lake Alfred has a bluegrass festival, we are here to vend and sell food,” Smith said. “I love the love, the kiss the cook love, that we get from people, their support…People are willing to get out after what has gone out in the world, so that is why people will be out today.”
For the sixth consecutive year, the Lake Alfred Bluegrass Bash drew people to the lake shores near Lions Park for a whole day of good old-fashioned barbecue, bluegrass, and fun times overall.
Nearly a dozen vendors from throughout the county arrived to offer the best of their barbecue, whether it’s old-fashioned pulled pork and ribs or spins on old favorites like pulled pork nachos or barbecue eggrolls.
Dennis Caves and his family attended the event as their team, Two Crackers Cookin. They served barbecue ribs and other items prepared with their dry rub seasoning.
He started attending the event with his father six years ago, and they have been coming ever since. He eventually started his barbecue team, Smokin and Pokin, but has been cooking along with his father at these events.
“It is fun. You meet a lot of people, good music, [and] good food,” Caves said. “We love meeting new people and barbecuing. I love barbecuing. I love seeing people loving my food.”
He considered the turnout well-received, even despite these current uncertain times. The weather was slightly cooler than in previous years but was overall good.
“The sun is shining, [and the] wind died down. It will be cool one minute, hot the next, depending on where you stand at,” he said. “This is the first [barbecue] event we have done since the Corona. So we thank Lake Alfred for letting us do it, and we hope that they come out to join us.”
The Lake Alfred Bluegrass Bash originally started as a stand-alone event for bluegrass music but evolved to include a barbecue and chicken wing competition.
Though the wing contest did not move forward this year, many vendors still attended to serve chicken wings and barbecue, with five bands and two clogging groups performing throughout the day, explained Richard Reeds, Director of Parks and Recreation at Lake Alfred.
“I enjoy the food,” he said. “That is always my favorite part. These guys all bring something a little different, they all get creative. I like to go throughout the day and sample a little bit of everything.”
To help maintain public health and safety amid the current COVID-19 crisis, precautions were taken to set vendors at a safe distance from one another and to offer hand sanitizer and masks to attendees.
This year’s turnout proved slower than previous years, most likely due to the fears over the pandemic and the brisk 50-degree weather; otherwise, the event managed to attract a sizeable crowd, Reed said.
“We are always thinking towards next year’s event,” he said. “We will see how the rest of the day goes and go back with Joey and see what kind of pros and cons about what we can do better next year.”