Photo by Kevin Wierzbicki
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Everybody went whole hog during the second day of the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival! Taking place this year Sept. 30 – Oct. 2 at Stephens Lake Park in Columbia, Missouri, the annual music and food blow-out may list “BBQ” last in its moniker but you can rest assured that festival-goers are as hungry for pulled pork sandwiches, beef brisket and BBQ ribs as they are for good music. It’s kind of telling that, among numerous vendors selling BBQ, one of them alone goes through at least six perfectly-cooked whole pigs during the event (these are on display as they’re being used; you can watch how the pork is “pulled”). It’s also amusing that one of the VIP passes that Roots N Blues N BBQ attendees can purchase is the “Whole Hog” pass, which among other perks like a private viewing area and private restrooms, includes a daily lunch of, you guessed it, pulled pork!

Food is an important part of any festival and at Roots N Blues N BBQ, festival-goers can sate their hunger with goodies from booths and food trucks offering everything from Jamaican food to gyros and with lots of snack items like donuts, kettle corn and honey ice cream. Almost all of the vendors are from Columbia or nearby regions, and that applies to the adult beverages on hand too; among the dozens of selections on offer fest-goers could order up a locally-brewed Longboat beer if they so desired.

Family-oriented fun is always in abundance at the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival and on Day 2 those meandering through the large festival grounds could come across a Ferris wheel, the Front Porch stage where anyone could sign up to sing or play, spontaneous shows by buskers like the old-time acoustic group the Woodsmiths, and even play dress-up and have their photo snapped at the cleverly-named Trailer Swift Photo Booth, which is actually inside a small trailer. The festival has a merchandise tent that stocks a large selection of commemorative festival T-shirts; also for sale are T-shirts, CDs, vinyl records, caps, stickers and more from the performers in attendance.

Of course the order of the day was music and the line-up on Day 2 skewed heavily to alt-country and Americana artists, some of the “rootsier” of which were The Devil Makes Three, Shovels & Rope, the Mavericks, Sam Bush and current Americana darling Jason Isbell. Bush played a set consisting of bluegrass music and lengthy jams with stand-out tracks including “Roll On Buddy, Roll On,” “They’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone” and a new instrumental cut called “Greenbrier” that comes from his recently-released album Storyman. A couple of other covers that Bush played were a bluegrass rave-up of the Jerry Lee Lewis hit “Great Balls of Fire” and an almost-psychedelic take on the David Essex oldie “Rock On.” Bush, who had already endeared himself to the crowd with his music and laid-back personality, further poured on the charm by wearing a St. Louis Cardinals jersey and talking-up the locally-beloved team, who at the time of the show were still in contention to go to baseball’s post season.

Even though the crowds showing up for performances at both Roots N Blues N BBQ stages were quite large, festival-goers still enjoyed relatively intimate shows, with shows being especially savored by those who had purchased a VIP pass and therefore could access a good-sized, stage adjacent area set aside just for them. Not so big as to be overwhelming, the atmosphere at Roots N Blues N BBQ is like that of a big family picnic, and with Day 2 shows by the likes of Grace Potter, Deke Dickerson, Southern Culture on the Skids and more, what a tasty picnic it was.

The festival is set to close out on Oct. 2 with a line-up that includes the Avett Brothers, Ben Folds, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Rayland Baxter, G. Love and Special Sauce and more.

For more information on the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival go here.

For ideas on other fun things to do in Columbia, Missouri go here