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Smokin’ food and smokin’ music draw crowds to downtown Allentown festival

Guitar rifts and the scent of smoked hickory wafted through the blue summer sky in downtown Allentown as the 12th annual “Blues, Brews & BBQ” festival kicked off Saturday afternoon.While the big musical acts like Brandon “Taz” Neiderauer and Vanessa Collier were slated to take the stage later in the evening, hundreds of people were on hand in the early afternoon to enjoy the sunshine, opening acts and dozens of vendors.Large crowds roamed the five blocks of Hamilton Street shut down for the main festival grounds, grabbing seats on fold-out chairs or curbs to eat pulled pork or listen to groups like the Groove Merchants out of Philadelphia.Scenes during the 12th annual Blues, Brews & Barbecue festival on Saturday, June 8th in downtown Allentown. The event features six stages for live music, various types of barbecue, craft and domestic beer and activities for families. (April Gamiz/)Andy Wilpizeski of Trexlertown said he doesn’t often come to Allentown but hasn’t missed the festival in the past three years. Along with food and fun, the festival highlights the development that has redefined the Center City neighborhood.“It’s good they’re doing this in Downtown Allentown. I like coming down here,” he said.Derek Jones and Elise Loncola of Bethlehem said the event was the perfect size while still remaining affordable, comparing it favorably to Bethlehem’s larger Musikfest. Attendees could walk around and discover interesting acts or browse shops without getting caught in a wall of congestion. It was their first time at the festival, and they were already interested in making a return trip.“It’s not so much about money as it is about comfort,” Loncola said. “You get what you paid for.”Jerome Roeder of Zionsville described himself as a workaholic and homebody who sometimes has to be dragged to events. But his wife, Connie, didn’t need to do much to persuade him to come to the the festival. Pentley Holmes band plays at Queen City BBQ Stage during The 12th annual “Blues, Brews & BBQ” festival on Saturday in downtown Allentown. (April Gamiz/)Sitting in the shade of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Jerome Roeder said he takes his barbecue seriously. He owns his own smoker, and walking around on a warm spring day with a beer in hand, sampling brisket and pulled pork is his idea of a good time. Connie Roeder, who described herself as more of a music fan, showed off some musical note earrings she bought from a vendor.“Walking around, listening to music, good beer — what’s not to like?” Jerome said.Last year while the Allentown festival was going on, Rob Finney, pit master for Bucks BBQ out of Phillipsburg, was somewhere else trying to sell his smoked meat. But business lagged. Then Finney realized his would-be customers were at the Allentown festival. He vowed not to miss it again.In the first two hours Saturday, Finney said customers made several runs on the tent’s brisket and homemade pork rinds. Along with BaconFest in Easton, the Allentown festival is one of the busiest events they’ve attended.“It’s one of the only ones dedicated to BBQ in the Lehigh Valley,” Finney said. “You can’t pass this up.”The festival runs until 10 p.m. The lineup is at downtownallentown.com.The 12th annual “Blues, Brews & BBQ” festival in Allentown draws a crowd for live music, smoking meats and craft and domestic beer. (April Gamiz / The Morning Call/)Tom Shortell can be reached at 610-820-6168 or tshortell@mcall.com.
Source: Morningcall

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