The Decatur BBQ & Bands Festival was founded by the Decatur Preservation Alliance (DPA) in 2000. The Alliance had managed to save the old Decatur train depot, located at Candler and Howard Streets, from demolition but needed funds to move the building off of the railroad right-of-way and secure the structure. With permission and support from the City, they closed off Howard Avenue east of Candler, brought in a flatbed trailer to serve as a stage, rounded up some bands, and threw a party.
The 2000 festival was a success and DPA made it an annual event. Along the way, they invited other organizations to participate including the Decatur Active Living , the Community Center of South Decatur and the Oakhurst Neighborhood Association (ONA). By 2005, the Depot sat on new footings with a new roof, and DPA bowed out of the festival.
In 2006 at the City’s behest, the festival relocated to Harmony Park in Oakhurst. Led by the Community Center of South Decatur, organizers set new goals and presented the most successful event yet. Close to 5,000 people came through the gate, and the festival netted more than $35,000. Each of the three presenters—the Community Center, the Decatur Recreation Department, and the ONA—channeled their share of the profits directly back into the community through various initiatives.
In 2007, despite record heat, Harmony Park again overflowed with music and barbeque lovers. The same three organizations presented the festival, and each donated a portion of their share of the profits to the newly formed Barbeque, Blues & Bluegrass Festival Small Grant Program. A total of 40% of the event proceeds went directly into the community.
In 2008, even with a slowing economy, the festival had its best crowd ever. The crowd was treated to the best musical lineup yet, and inlcuded 2 hours of incredible Blues from Beverly “Guitar” Watkins and Albert White. The Decatur Barbecue, Blues & Bluegrass Festival Small Grant Program handed out $7,000.00 to several Decatur Organizations.
In 2010 and 2011 we had a record crowd of over 6,000 people, brought in three BBQ vendors to serve the needs of our guests, and were fortunate enough to have great beer provided by Fat Tire for the first time ever! The BBQ Small Grant Program continued to hand out a large portion of money to local Decatur Organizations.
In 2012 we had a record crowd of over 6,500 people, amazing music including headliner, The Electromatics, BBQ brought to you by Black Tie and Fox Bros., and were fortunate enough to have great beer provided again by New Belgium and Eagle Rock! The BBQ Small Grant Program continues to hand out a large portion of money to local Decatur Organizations. This years grantees are Decatur Preservation Alliance’s MLK Service Project, Wylde Center’s Garden to Classrooms Field Experience, City of Decatur Decatur’s Season of Giving, Oakhurst Cooperative Preschool’s Shade Slope Project, Decatur Education Foundation’s K-5 Math Education, and 4/5 Academy PTA’s Tybee Island Field Study. Thank you to all who came out and helped support our grant program by simply attending the festival.
In 2014 the festival made a major event area change by expanding to the adjacent 630 East Lake lot. This more cohesive location allowed more space for attendees, a larger stage, and an overall more efficient event footprint. In addition we changed the event hours (12pm – 8pm) to better reflect a typical festival day.
In 2016 the festival expanded to a multi-stage event with 10 bands and over 6000+ attendees. Having use of both a refurbished Harmony Park and the main stage 630 East Lake Drive location fulfilled the 3+ year initial vision of a complete event site. 2017 was a tremendous success with our largest charitable donation yet to the Community Center of South Decatur. Folks enjoyed 7+ hours of great music on both stages and many local and national brands partnered with this great live experience. In 2019 the festival moved to the shade and grass of Legacy Park at 500 S. Columbia Drive in East Decatur. This new venue afforded our guests a wonderful and comfortable experience and will now be our long term home.