At our last staff meeting we were mentioning how much there was to do in Lehigh Valley this past weekend. Seriously, if you can’t find at least ten things you’d like to do on any given weekend around here, you must prefer living under a rock.

Artifest at the Museum of Indian Culture was on some people’s list as was the start of The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival on the campus of DeSales University. Plenty of nationally known musical talents rolled into the valley for shows including Pat Benatar, Loretta Lynn, Bobby Vinton and Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac fame.

When asked if anyone was attending Blues, Brews & Barbecue I chimed in. Not only was I attending…I was asked to be a barbecue judge! This was the 5th year for this fun, free event which closes Hamilton Street in Allentown between 8th and 9th Streets, turning it into one huge party.

I arrived in town early (it started at noon) so I could hear some of the bands before reporting for my official tasting duties at 2pm. If asked again, I would change my strategy. Leslie Suhr, from the Hamilton District Main Street Program who runs this event along with the City of Allentown, advised me to come hungry (which I did) but the smells of all the delicious food vendors nearly drove me crazy!

I couldn’t wait to head over to the judging station to join the rest of the panel, Tony Ianelli from the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, Allentown City Councilman Peter Schweyer, Bill White from The Morning Call, and Kelly Huth from The Express Times. There were official name place cards and “swag bags” on each of our seats. I wasn’t expecting gifts in addition to great food.

There were five categories to judge; beef, pork, chicken, salad and beans. I tasted each one but most of the portions came home with me. They were all delicious but when the score sheets were tabulated Allentown BrewWorks took home the prize for salad and beans, Grumpy’s Bar-B-Que Roadhouse won in the beef and pork categories (that is their specialty after all), and Abe Lopez from Sangria*, already a Chopped Champion, beat out other competitors with his chicken dish.

I spent the rest of my afternoon listening to more of the six groups entertaining the crowd, walking around to all other vendors, and generally people watching. The event ran until 10 p.m. but I was home before that. After all, I had leftovers I had to refrigerate.

When the date is announced for next year, I’ll be sure to put Blues, Brews and Barbecue on my calendar. I don’t drink beer, but as Meatloaf said, “two out of three ain’t bad”. Have you attended this event?


*Sangria closed July 2013.