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Posted: Wednesday, May 26th 2010 at 1:26pm

'Cracker Queen' author to help kick off Brenau BBQ event

By Staff
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Scene from last year's Brenau Barbecue Championship
GAINESVILLE - Georgia author Lauretta Hannon joins a lineup that ranges from an acoustic guitar set to a Jimmy Buffett tribute band at the Brenau University Amphitheater Friday for the preview party to open the second Brenau University barbecue cooking championship.

Gates open for the preview party a 5 p.m. with the program set to begin at 6 p.m. There is a $10 admission charge for adults, but children are admitted free. Patrons can also buy ribs and other barbecue specialties served up by Yazoo's Delta Q, winners of the 2009 national barbecue cooking championship sponsored by the Memphis Barbecue Network.

The preview party celebrates the public opening of Brenau’s second Memphis Barbecue Network-sanctioned championship on Saturday. Proceeds from both events will benefits scholarships for North Georgia students at the 132-year-old private institution.

Other performers at the preview party Fridays are singer Kimberly Clark and the Sons of Sailor, the Buffett tribute band.

Hannon, a frequent guest on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” program, is the author of “The Cracker Queen: A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life," which was recently chosen as one of the "25 Books All Georgians Should Read," a prestigious list compiled by the Georgia Center for the Book. Hannon also will sign copies of her book during the preview party.

One reviewer called her book “a hilarious, poignant and occasionally horrifying memoir of growing up in the Land of the Single-Wides.” In both her book and yarn-spinning, the middle Georgia native easily jumps between descriptions of dealing with a stuffy New England-bred paternal aunt and a mother who kept a sing on her refrigerator door that said “If it has tires or testicles, it’s gonna give you trouble.”

Hannon confesses that she prefers jazz and classical music and has never read “Gone with the Wind,” preferring instead less southern fare like the works of William Butler Yeats and Leo Tolstoy. But she argues she can still claim “cracker” royalty, because it is not something that can be narrowly defined.

"I agree that's not what most people think of when they think of crackers," said Hannon, who will talk about her life between the musical sets. "They have an image of someone who listens to country music and, if they read, it's somebody like Erskine Caldwell. Yes, I listen to classical music, but I also have a Hank Williams button that I wear."

"A cracker queen is different from a Southern belle. A cracker queen tries at all times to be real. She's a straight shooter. A Southern belle tries to manipulate through fake flattery and other maneuvers."

Despite Hannon's affection for classical music and literature, she does have other qualifications of a cracker queen. In her memoir, which is available in paperback this month, she describes growing up in Warner Robins in a dysfunctional family. She tells stories of alcoholism, crazy aunts, a criminal uncle, a half-sibling who ran a head shop, an unorthodox mother and a woman who keeps a Baby Jesus from a Nativity scene chained in her yard.

"There's an endless supply of material," said Hannon, “but if I run out of stories, all I have to do is call my mother."


The inaugural classic car show will also be a feature this year.

The show thus far features a bevy of Chevys, including a ’35coupe and a ’57 Bel Air. Ford products are also well represented with ’32 coupe and even a 1963 Mercury Comet. But, according to Lauren Bradford, a 2010 Brenau M.B.A. graduate who is in charge of the auto show, many of the people who participate in these shows, particularly those with prizes offered, for tactical reasons do not let their competition know they’re coming. As a result, applications are still being accepted for anyone who wants to enter their pre-1972 vehicle in the competition.

Judging will take place from 1:30 to 3 p.m. with an awards presentation at 3 p.m. Registration is $20 and includes two complimentary tickets to the barbecue championship cooking festival. Like the barbecue revenues, proceeds from the car show also will benefit local scholarships for students to attend Brenau.

"We've had a lot of interest from classic car owners," said Bradford, a 2008 Brenau Women’s College graduate who says began a love affair with vintage vehicles when she helped her father restore two 1956 Chevrolets.

"He got one ’56 done in 1980 and started restoring it again in '97 to give it a different look," she said. "It's a fever. Once you finish one, you want to start another. These people spend thousands of dollars on the cars. A paint job can cost $15,000."

It was pure serendipity, but Brenau’s auto show kicks off the final few weeks of the extremely popular exhibit, “The Allure of Automobile,” at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Brenau and The High last week announced a three-year education partnership deal that begins Aug. 1, an arrangement that, among other things, will ensure that there will be collaboration between the two institutions on future events and exhibits, like the two car shows.

“The Allure of the Automobile” exhibit includes classic cars from 1930-1965, including a 1935 Duesenberg JN Roadster formerly owned by Clark Gable, a 1957 Jaguar XKSS Roadster, formerly owned by Steve McQueen, and a 1948 Tucker Model 48 Torpedo.

M. Douglas Ivester, a Gainesville area native who serves on the directing boards of both the university and the High’s parent organization, the Woodruff Arts Center, is also a classic automobile collector. The dovetailing of the two institutions’ independent ideas, he said, illustrates the kinds of synergies that will be possible as this relationship unfolds.

"The collaborative relationship between Brenau University and the High Museum of Art will help broaden the educational impact and mission of both institutions. Starting with the celebration of the automobile as an art form, this collaboration will engage wider audiences with great art and educational programs," said Ivester, who was the tenth chair of the board and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company from 1997 to 2000.

"I believe the communities surrounding Brenau and those of the High and Woodruff Arts Center will benefit in ways that we cannot yet even imagine today."


Saturday's family-friendly activities are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the Brenau campus. Vendors will be selling barbecue, soft drinks, adult beverages and other products. Ronald McDonald is scheduled to make an appearance and the local organizations, Interactive Neighborhood for Kids and Quinlan Arts Center, will provide crafts and activities for children.

Other events - in addition to the classic car show - include free health screenings for blood pressure, glucose, hydration and other health issues by student nurses from Brenau's School of Health and Science.

Teams of volunteers will be on hand to make sure everyone has a good time, that the festival runs smoothly, and that it is clean and green. Brenau Barbecue Championship founder and director Jim Barco, senior vice president for institutional development at the university, is working with the city of Gainesville to help with recycling. And Dr. Maria Zayas, a psychology professor who is director of Brenau's Sustainability Task Force, will coordinate efforts with Dana Miller of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce to schedule volunteers to monitor the recycling and garbage bins.

Last year's inaugural barbecue championship drew more than 3,000 people and raised more than $20,000 for local scholarships. Barco expects an even larger crowd this year and a fundraising goal of $100,000.

The important thing to remember, however, is that the Brenau event is built around a competition – one on which participants, both pro and amateur, build their reputations and credentials for moving up in competition standings. Their work is certified by volunteer judges who have been especially trained to know what to see, taste and smell in a cooking competition. The task of coordinating the barbecue judges belongs to Dana Miller, a Brenau Women’s College alumna who is also vice president for education and community development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

"The Memphis Barbecue Network takes the quality of judges extremely seriously," she said. "Because I'm trained as a judge, Brenau has asked me to handle the coordination, take applications and choose the right judges for the event. We've received applications from at least 15 states."

Seventy judges will do blind tasting and on-site evaluations, she explained. Then the most experienced judges will do the final on-site judging.

"Professionals are going to judge the amateur Backyard Braggart contestants for the first time this year," Miller said. "They're excited about that."

Winners will be announced at the event Saturday afternoon.

In anticipation of a bigger turnout, Casey said additional beer stations are being set up to ease the congestion they had last year.

"We’re also sponsored by Yuengling this year, which is a favorite in the Gainesville community," she said.

Brenau students are also getting into the act. Emily Wilbanks, a senior dance major at Brenau, is preparing to accommodate twice as many people this year. She already has 35 volunteers, but would like at least another 15 to help direct traffic, answer questions and offer friendly greetings.

"On Saturday the students' primary job will be to maintain the barricades," she said. "We will also be placing students around the inflatables in the kids' zone."

Student volunteers will receive a T-shirt to wear on Saturday. Friday's preview party volunteers are asked to dress in tropical clothing to blend with the Margaritaville atmosphere when the Sons of Sailors perform Jimmy Buffett songs.

All weekend Beth Nott, who teaches French and coordinates the university’s grant requests to charitable foundations and government entities, will be working with a crew of ten volunteers checking and coding the barbecue for blind judging, cleaning up and preparing for the next category.

"It's a great way to get an insider's view of the process," said Nott. "A different group of judges also will judge each site and the presentation, which is an amazing aspect to watch. The pro teams really make elaborate presentations. They are judged for the product, but also for the site and presentation."

Sanctioned by the Memphis Barbecue Network, which grew out of the prestigious Memphis in May event, the Brenau Barbecue Championship will showcase 20 of the Southeast's elite professionals competing for glory and cash prizes.

In addition to the professional competition, 25 amateur barbecuers will vie for bragging rights in the Backyard Braggarts division and renowned barbecue expert Bill Morris of the Holy Smokers, Too, will conduct a cooking class from noon to 4 p.m. on Friday.

"It's $75 for a four-hour class," Barco said, "but it's truly invaluable if you want to learn how to cook barbecue."

Admission is $10 for the preview party and $5 for Saturday's event. No outside food, beverages or pets are allowed.

Link: Brenau University
Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News

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