The Meet: Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival has become the classic chicken-or-egg debate.
Do you come for the championship barbecue and blues music, then stay for the world-class track meet? Or do you come for the world-class track meet, then stay for the championship barbecue and blues music?
Chicken, egg -- either way, you get a day full of food, music and sports.
The fourth annual street festival, the entertainment arm of the California Invitational Relays (formerly the Modesto Relays), brings two days' worth of grilling and good times to the streets surrounding the Modesto Junior College Stadium.
This year is highlighted by headliner Tommy Castro and the KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue Society) California State BBQ Champions.
"You can come, learn to barbecue, taste barbecue, listen to good music and see some of the best track athletes in the world, if you want to," said Save Mart event producer Don Bean.
The event begins today with the Great American Tailgate Party. This new addition on the eve of the relays expands the festival from one day to two. Bean said it was added to give amateur barbecue enthusiasts and the public a chance to celebrate in a relaxed atmosphere before the relays.
In a contest sponsored by modbee.com and Save Mart Supermarkets, 10 amateur grillers were chosen to compete in the cook-off. The public can enjoy an all-you-can eat buffet of chicken, pork, tri-tip and all the fixings, included in the cost of admission.
Performing will be East Bay Mudd, a group from the Bay Area that specializes in classic R&B, soul and funk covers. Bean said its sound and style are much like fellow Bay Area favorites Tower of Power.
Saturday, the music starts at 9 a.m. and doesn't stop until
10 p.m. The Meet brings together a Kid's Zone family activities area, the KCBS Championships, barbecue tasting, other food vendors and more. "We're going to have music, music, music and more music, then barbecue, and then more music," Bean said.
The day will kick off with the inaugural Run to the Relays 5K run/walk and 10K run. Participants can register the day of the event to do a loop through the Virginia Corridor and back to MJC. Performing will be area artists Third Party, Alyssa Poppin and Peech.
The day will include the KCBS Championships, the largest in the state this year, with more than 50 teams competing.
The public can buy tickets to sample barbecue from a dozen of the competing teams, and their picks will decide a special People's Choice winner.
Also new this year is the Food Network-style live cooking show "The Secrets of BBQ" with Ray "Dr. BBQ" Lampe, three-time California State BBQ Champ Brent Walton and Southern California food writer and food critic Shuji Sakai.
The Tommy Castro Band closes out the evening. The popular Bay Area blues group is a regular on the festival circuit. Castro has performed with the likes of Taj Mahal, Keb Mo, Santana, B.B. King, Elvis Costello and Buddy Guy.
"This event has been building over the years," Bean said. "If you like barbecue and you like music, it's the one for you."