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Nelsonville to host and sponsor 20th Annual Ohio Smoked Meat & BBQ Fest


Barbecue competitors and connoisseurs will travel to Nelsonville this weekend to flood the streets with the aromas of slow-cooked pork, ribs, brisket and chicken. And that’s not to mention the sweet sauces and peppery rubs.

“When you get that many teams, cookers and smoke, it smells delicious,” John Gambill, a pitmaster of Historic BBQ based in Lebanon, said. “People say they smell it driving past Nelsonville.”

The Ohio Smoked Meat and Barbecue Festival will start at 8 a.m. Friday, when teams begin to set up, and will run until 3 p.m. Saturday, when the winners are presented with their awards on the main stage of Elks Lodge, according to the event’s website. Vendors will sell food after 5 p.m. Friday and after noon Saturday.

In its 20th year, 40 teams are scheduled to participate in several meat-specific competitions and the lauded “Grand Champion” title. The festival is among the bigger barbecue competitions in Ohio, Paul Grant of Slippery Pete’s BBQ from Wadsworth, said.

Hocking College and the Inn at Hocking College hosted the event for the first 11 years of its existence before the Nelsonville Area Chamber of Commerce took on the responsibility of organizing the event in 2008.

Last year, Historic BBQ picked up first place in the brisket competition. Gambill said the team likes to cook at low temperatures using smoke as a complementary flavor. Evoking natural flavors of meat, especially chicken, also garners them compliments from the public, Gambill said.

“The community supports the festival and does a good job of running it,” he said

Nelsonvilles’ Public Square and the surrounding pavement closed to traffic will serve as the location for the smoky gathering. There is no admission fee.

Grant said the competition draws talented and top teams from around the region and throughout the country.

“A lot of teams stay awake the entire night,” Grant said. “For an Ohio contest to be holding 40-plus teams is saying something.”

Gambill noted the atmosphere of the festival has shifted and refined over the years.

“There used to be a lot of people there for the party and only a few serious cookers and now there’s more serious cookers than partiers,” Gambill said. “It’s a tough weekend, and there are a lot of talented teams.”

He said the event acts as a precursor to the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational held in Lynchburg, Tennessee, on Oct. 22, and Nelsonville offers an opportunity to get one last cook in before an event of such magnitude.

The Ohio Smoked Meat & BBQ Festival is set to award $10,000 in prizes on Saturday to the top teams that reach the podium.

The festival is Kansas City Barbecue Society certified, and local reps will be in attendance.

Along with Gambill, Grant also praised the festival’s historic setup in town.

“Nelsonville is a great host and sponsor,” Grant said. “The organizers are some of the best around and a lot of people look forward to the competition.”

If You Go

What: Ohio Smoked Meat & BBQ Festival

When: Friday and Saturday

Where: Nelsonville Public Square

Admission: Free, food for sale

Stargazers escape the light pollution of Athens to peer into the heavens


After dark, Athens has many sights to see — and not all of them are within this solar system.

Using a telescope with the right amount of power, like the eight-inch model Ethan Gower brings to each of his “Star Party” events, one can peer into the sky to catch a glimpse of double stars, Neptune, nebulas and infinitely more celestial objects.

During the Star Party, Gower described his Dobsonian telescope as “basically a light bucket.” A Dobsonian telescope has a simple design that allows it to be affordable and available for amateur astronomers. Gower and sophomore Jack Deffet have hosted a series of stargazing events, the last of which took place Friday night. To combat the light pollution Athens radiates, the group convened on a hillside in the State Street Cemetery, beyond the neon glow of Court Street. The previous one had been held at the rugby field on South Green.

Dubbed “Star Party 5.2,” Gower, a junior studying astrophysics, said the event attracted more people than any of the previous four star parties. The “.2” in the title accounts for two weather-obstructed attempts. Only sparse clouds obscured Friday night’s view.

As bright as Athens might seem, the light pollution in Athens is not as bad as other areas, George Eberts, an assistant professor of astronomy and physics said.

“O’Bleness Hospital and the mall have (light) cut-offs at certain times because that’s what contractors are required now,” Eberts said.

He said lighting ordinances reduce the light pollution as well.

At the height of the evening, 12 to 15 stargazers trickled in and out. Each time Gower adjusted his large, cylindrical telescope to the next star, planet or star group, the attendees formed a line to to have an up-close view of an elusive sight.

The main event for the evening, Gower said, occurred at 11:44 p.m., when Algol, “the demon star,” would become eclipsed by a smaller star, causing it to flicker and dim.

“Algol is eclipsed every two and seven-eighths days, so you can’t exactly wait for it,” Eberts said.

Those in attendance showed their appreciation for the event.

“It’s cool that Ethan is taking the time do this,” Trevor Seymour, a college student studying in Columbus, said. “He’s really knowledgeable about everything. It’s a perfect spot and everyone is in good spirits.”

As an astrophysics major, Gower said his fascination with space started when he read a space-themed National Geographic magazine as a child. He aspires to work for NASA and holds a special interest in Pluto — he said he would like to lead a mission traveling there, although the long exposure of radiation to the human body would render it difficult.

“My friends say I know too much about space,” Gower said. “There’s so much to learn about in astronomy. Just two days ago I learned two new things.”

He had previously borrowed an 8 inch inch reflector telescopes used by professors in OU’s astronomy department. He now uses his own 8 inch Dobsonian telescope that is glossy blue, wide and cylindrical.

“Telescopes are measured by their aperture in inches,” Eberts said. “The wider the reflector mirror inside, the more surface area is exposed to starlight.”

Eberts said telescope apertures reach to sizes of two meters and larger.

One stargazer said she appreciated the event’s focus.

“We describe it as really pure — no drinking or drugs,” Alayna Coverly, a senior studying painting and drawing, said.

Gower pointed the telescope at star groups such as Pisces and Taurus until attention transferred to the fading of the demon star in the Perseus constellation.

The star dimmed, much like the evening, ending another stargazing expedition.

Gower, however, plans to host another Star Party on October 27 when Saturn, Venus and a star align.