2nd annual Bernard Blues and BBQ Arts, Crafts and Music Festival today and Sunday

W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune

At this weekend’s Bernard Blues and BBQ Festival, the Johnsonville Big Taste Grill (pictured is Johnsonville grillmaster Jay Wetzel) will be used to cook up brats in the parking lot of the Ave Maria Grotto, and proceeds from sales will go to fund programs at St. Bernard Prep School. (W.C. Mann)

At a glance

Bernard Blues and BBQ Arts, Crafts and Music Festival

9 a.m. until 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 8-9 at St. Bernard Abbey and Prep School (1600 St. Bernard Dr. SE, Cullman)

$5 donation admission, children 5 and younger free

$3 discount admission to the Ave Maria Grotto during the event

CULLMAN – On Friday morning, the Johnsonville Big Taste Grill rolled into Cullman ahead of its scheduled visit to St. Bernard Abbey for this weekend’s Bernard Blues and BBQ event.  The giant cooking contraption, one of two custom converted semi-trailers owned by Johnsonville, LLC, will be used to cook up brats in the parking lot of the Ave Maria Grotto, and proceeds from sales will go to fund programs at St. Bernard Prep School.

The Tribune stopped by and met Johnsonville grillmaster Jay Wetzel, who shared:

“We’ll be here with the festival, serving up brats, raising money, which is always a great thing.  The nice thing about what Johnsonville does with the grills is, anywhere we go, we’re always tied in with a charity organization and help raise money for them to use the money in various different ways.”

One of the company’s rigs travels across the country, while the Big Taste Grill in Cullman is one dedicated to traveling the highways and byways of Southeastern Conference country, traveling to festivals and SEC games throughout the region every week through the conference championship in December.

The trailer contains an internal freezer that can hold 6,000 brats, four large grills, and steam tables, along with sinks and other devices.  The grills can accommodate up to 750 brats at a time and churn out up to 2,500 per hour with up to 12 grillmasters working at a time. Wetzel’s goal is to sell 3,000 brats at the festival, but he also said, “I’d love to blow it out of the water and do more.”

Volunteer grillmasters will be cooking up Johnsonville “Ultimate Original” and “Better with Cheddar” brats.

“Roll Tide” or “War Eagle?”

The Johnsonville team will also be giving away Alabama and Auburn T-shirts, and event coordinator Joyce Nix and her St. Bernard team will be counting shirts to see who has the biggest and most loyal fan base in the Cullman area.

What expect at the festival

Nix shared, “We have about 70 booths set up with arts and crafts from all over the southeastern United States.  We have a lot of demonstrators on-site, actually caning chairs and making brooms. A great time to come and buy Christmas gifts or birthday presents, or just to decorate your home.

“The Bloomin’ Festival, it took a while for it to grow, and we expect to see Bernard Blues and BBQ grow, too.  We’ve had a wonderful outpouring of support for it from our sponsors who make it all possible. The media has been incredible for us.  And we are just appreciative of all the help of volunteers and our local folks that make it all happen.

“Barbecue: I can’t say enough about Freddie Day catering.  He’s been fantastic! He’ll be cooking up some ribs and some of the finest pulled pork in the Southeast.  And then, of course, we’ve got the Johnsonville Brats team; we’re really pleased to have them. Frank’s Hot Sauce will be with us.  They’ll be tossing up some chicken wings and doing some free samples of ‘Do you like it hot or do you like it sweet.’ So you tell us which one you like best.

“And then, of course, to round out the show we’ve got live entertainment from all over Alabama, even out of Tennessee–the Blues Hammer Band.  And then, on Sunday afternoon, we’ll give away $10,000; you don’t want to miss that. (A) $5-dollar donation to St. Bernard Prep School entitles you to an opportunity to win.”

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