By Destiny Bell
For The Birmingham Times
Barbecue, blues, and fun for the family were on the menu at the 8th Annual Bob Sykes BBQ & Blues Festival at the DeBardeleben Park in downtown Bessemer last weekend.
Attendees got a taste of the southern authenticity the festival is known for. “It’s like peanut butter and jelly. The home of blues and barbecue is the south. Take two things we all know and love, put them together, and you create a common table for people to put their feet under and have a great time,” said Van Sykes, festival host and Bob Sykes operating manager.
Visitors traveled from all over the Midwest and the southern Tri-State area for the event.
Chris Butters and his brother, John, made their first festival.
“We’re from Brooklyn and every year my brother and I go to different American cities,” Chris said. “We call it Brothers Bonding Weekend. This year we chose Birmingham, Ala. Although this is our first festival, we like it very much, the blues is great and the food is even better.”
Tamara Yelldell, a Bessemer native, said she attends all the time. “The atmosphere is awesome,” she said.
Bob Sykes BBQ is a family owned business that was founded in Bessemer, Ala. in 1957. It was initially run by their parents but the Sykes brothers were able to turn the family legacy and into a household name and a Bessemer staple.
After 60 years of running Bob Sykes BBQ, Van Sykes said the restaurant is still as lively as ever. “I can’t believe it’s been that long. It’s a wonderful feeling . . . it feels good to still be here after 60 years. I feel like I’m at the top of my game!”
The business has grown to include the festival.
Van Sykes, who has lived in Bessemer his entire life, said “the essence of the festival is to create positive headlines that show how great of a city we have. We’re the home of great music and great food.”
Throughout the day couples danced to the modern jazz sounds of the Chris Simmons Band, followed by Albert White and the Music Maker Revue.
Asked how this festival differs from the last, Sykes said “The music and acts are different. I want acts people will drive from Mississippi to see. I try to learn [from each festival] every year and make each one better.”