Roots N Blues N BBQ festival set up begins

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COLUMBIA-- Set up for the eighth annual Roots N Blues N BBQ festival began Tuesday morning as fencing and bike racks were delivered to Stephens Lake Park.

Thirty steering committee members and 600 volunteers will help transform the park into a festival Sept. 26-Sept. 28.

The three-day festival begins Friday and ends Sunday and features a number of musical performances, a half marathon and 10K run, various food vendors and other events.

Festival Director Julie King says the park becomes almost unrecognizable. 

"It'll come together pretty quickly," King said. "We have the fencing going in today, I think the stages are going to arrive, the ferris wheel, I think tomorrow we'll have all the tents coming in and the furniture. We're working on moving our office over here right now."

King says her team has learned from past festivals and hopes to improve the overall experience for guests.

"Last year we didn't expect the shuttles to be quite as popular," King said. "So we are having more shuttles, we're working with COMO Connect so that should help people get to and from the park a lot quicker and easier.We also increased our bar staff so we can get people through the lines quicker and more porta potties in more locations because that was a big thing, the lines were kind of long for both the bars and the porta potties."

Previous years caused traffic and parking issues around Columbia. King recommends leaving your car and walking to the event.

"Park downtown definitely," King said. "There just isn't any parking at the park available so it's about a mile, you can either walk or ride on the shuttle, we have a couple different options for the shuttles, COMO Connect and we'll also be running some buses of our own."

Local fans aren't the only ones looking forward to the event this year. 

"Ticket sales are up and the weather looks fabulous," Thumper Entertainment President Betsy Farris said. "I think a lot of people wait to buy tickets at the gate. We've sold a lot more tickets to students this year. We also have fans coming in from Australia who have never been here to the United States before, so that's really exciting. We also have fans coming in from Sweden so that's really cool."

Along with this year's lineup of artists, the festival features new eating options.

"The food vendors load in on Friday morning," Farris said. "And we have more food vendors this year so we're excited about that. We have more local vendors so Lucky's Market will be joining us and Buckingham, Dickey's, Glenn's Cafe, Strange Donuts, so there will be a lot to eat here."

A kick-off event Thursday night around downtown Columbia will preview music played by local musicians. The first event at Stephens Lake will be at 4 p.m. on Friday. 

"Really things just get loaded in," Farris said. "It would be nice if we could set up a time-lapse really to watch it all happen. But when you come out on Friday night, we'll have lights everywhere, we'll have giant critter creatures, it'll be an amazing experience."

Tickets for the event can still be purchased online or at the festival. You can find information on pricing, scheduling and a map of the park at the Roots N Blues N BBQ website.