Wells to Make First Visit
July 9, 2012
By JOSEPH SITARZ
Greenwood, SC - Carolyn Wells has surrounded herself with folks who have the same passion for barbecue as she does. She has more than 17,000 friends and counting. That number could be much higher if non-KCBS members attending barbecue events are included.
"I've always wanted to attend it ever since I first heard about it," Wells said during a recent telephone interview from the office in Kansas City.
Wells, her husband, Gary, and their friend Rick Welch were competitors in barbecue events in the Kansas City area. They had friends who did the same thing. They discovered what was lacking was a way to network so people could find information about all the events.
It was during drinks and barbecue chat that the idea for the KCBS first was brought up.
"It started as a lark and it got to be serious," Wells said. "We still hope its fun."
Back then, Wells said she never saw it growing into what it is today.
“All we wanted to do was cook big old pieces of meat and drink beer,” Wells said.
“I guess we didn’t know it couldn’t be done.”
Wells is passionate about barbecue and everything that goes with it.
“My love for barbecue is how I got into this mess,” Wells said. “It’s actually very humbling to think people had enough faith in us and that we were filling a need.
“We are Americana,” Wells added. “It’s all about food, family, fun and friends. Barbecue has sort of just turned into that All-American pursuit that provides a great venue, and that provides a great core for a community festival.”
With so many members and more than 400 KCBS events each year, Wells is at home wherever she goes.
“This is very much an extended family,” Wells said.
“Amongst our membership, we have all the talent in the world. They have the same passion and enthusiasm for the sport. It was a grassroots movement that was smoldering that caught fire.”
Helping take KCBS to another level is the marketing firm hired several years ago.
“We were bumbling along pretty well,” Wells said. “They’ve increased our national awareness with our barbecue tour, furthering our educational mission, so I think it’s a pretty safe assumption to say we’ve reached critical mass.”
KCBS membership knows no boundaries.
“This is a sport you don’t have to be athletic to do. You do have to have some endurance. It crosses all socio-economic, race, gender, whatever boundaries,” Wells said. “The common thing is barbecue. We all have to eat. We’ve been very blessed to eat very, very well,” said Wells, a daughter of the South who hails from Nashville and likes all barbecue, but favors pulled pork and ribs.
Wells wasn’t supposed to be in Greenwood this week, but when something changed and another representative was needed, she was suggested. It was approved and Wells agreed.
“We can’t ask for contests as contest reps,” Wells said. “I work very well with that rep team and we’ve worked several other contests together.”
Other members of the rep team are Stephen “No Cents” Smith, Cliff Welch and Mike Garrison. Smith is a regular at the Festival of Discovery. Wells was at events 30 weekends last year, but expects to do less this year. This is a working vacation, of sorts, for Wells.
“It’s a working, educational, fun trip,” Wells said. “As a rep, we’re the people that ensure the integrity of the event. We attend the cooks’ meeting, the judges’ meeting ... we meet the teams. We officiate. We keep the City of Greenwood and the Festival from having to reinvent the wheel.
“We work in the judging area. We supervise the tabulation,”
Wells added. “We get the paperwork filled out. The whole goal is to keep the playing field as level as possible for the teams.”
Greenwood has a great reputation with KCBS.
“They are a benchmark,” Wells said. “They are the model.”
Now in its 12th year, the Festival of Discovery didn’t need long to build its reputation.
Wells said Greenwood’s attention to detail, the competition layout, the crowds and the fact it is cooker- and public- friendly helped establish that reputation.
Greenwood city manager Charlie Barrineau, Greenwood officials, city workers, sponsors, volunteers, the community and visitors all contribute to the reputation.
“They are excellent communicators,” Wells said of Barrineau and others. “And as far as producing an event, they’ve really raised the bar in the fact they go to the trouble to document it as far as economic impact and the growth that they can track. That’s very helpful for us to help our other organizations along the way.”
Wells said KCBS thinks excellence among its organizers is commonplace.
“They’re out of the ordinary.” Wells said of Greenwood. “They are extraordinary. Organizers try to outnice each other as far as what they do for judges and teams and to make a quality environment for a community festival.
“The fact they don’t take anyone for granted, either the teams or the judges, is a great attend to detail.”
Wells said the fact the cookoff is teamed with the Blues Cruise is an added attraction for many people.
“Each contest has its own signature,” Wells said. “Each one is a little bit different. Barbecue and the blues just seem natural. They go together so well.”
Blues Cruise regular Drink Small offered this song, “Living in a BBQ World,” as the theme song for the Festival of Discovery. The South Carolina bluesman’s song has caught the attention of many.
“That song is incredible,” Wells said. “That’s one of the extraordinary touches.”
For more on the Festival of Discovery, visit www.festivalofdiscovery.com. For more in KCBS, visit www.kcbs.us.