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WhistleStop Festival & Rocket City BBQ Cook-Off

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    Huntsville, AL--WhistleStop is back and it’s serving up the barbeque to benefit the EarlyWorks Children’s Museum! WhistleStop returns to the Rocket City this summer with a new date and new location — Aug. 13-14 at John Hunt Park in Huntsville. The annual fundraiser, as always, will benefit education initiatives at the EarlyWorks Family of Museums, but this year brings a new twist. Barbecue competitors will be “cooking for STEM” as funds raised will directly support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics initiatives at EarlyWorks Children’s Museum, as the museum transitions from a history museum to a science and history museum.


    “EarlyWorks is one of only a handful of children’s museums that bring STEM to the youngest learners,” said Bart Williams, executive director for EarlyWorks. “We specialize in preschool through second grade — yes, we get kids that are older and some that can’t walk yet — but our specialty is giving informal education experiences to preschoolers which better prepares them for traditional classrooms which in turn makes them more successful.”


    Since its inception, WhistleStop has been about one thing: BARBEQUE, cookers, and attendees alike can expect a renewed focus on the festival’s roots this year.


    About 150 cookers are expected to compete in either the Kansas City Barbeque Society’s sanctioned professional competition or the amateur ShadeTree Barbeque Cook-off. In a typical year cookers and judges come from 10 to 15 different states and each year even a small contingent from outside the U.S. Amateurs will serve up chicken and ribs, while the professionals will showcase their best chicken, pork, ribs, and beef brisket to see who will be proclaimed the winner. “The KCBS competition is like the NFL of Barbeque”, said Bart Williams.


    But the tasting fun isn’t just for the judges. The public will have expanded tasting opportunities this year so they can vote with their mouths and their wallet on who they think deserves to be crowned the champion. Friday evening the public can enjoy smoked wings and vote for their favorite. Saturday they can test out pulled pork in the People’s Choice competition, and if they like what they taste, throw a couple of bucks in the cooker’s bucket — the team with the most money takes home the bragging rights.


    “The WhistleStop Festival has always been a great time for people to get together with friends and hang out,” said Beth Goodwin, director of marketing for EarlyWorks. “There are so many people there that everybody knows — it’s like a big tailgate party — and that’s only going to get bigger down at John Hunt Park. It’s a great opportunity for the community to get out and get back to doing what they love to do — hanging out, smelling the barbecue, tasting the barbecue, and just having a good time.”


    If barbecue isn’t your thing, you can still arrive with an empty stomach — food trucks will be on hand with a variety of menu options to choose from, including vegan offerings. No matter your appetite, prepare to be entertained. Tribute bands will take the stage both Friday and Saturday night, entertaining crowds with music from the Doobie Brothers, Santana, Tom Petty, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Local artists will round out the weekend entertainment.


    Tickets are just $10. WhistleStop Weekend is a volunteer and sponsor-hosted event. For more information visit