A tasty blend of amateur and professional BBQ competitors from 12 states and two continents are perfecting their recipes and honing their techniques in preparation for the 8th Annual Sip & Swine BBQ Festival. Originally crafted in 2016 as a fundraiser for Home of Hope at Gwinnett Children’s Shelter, the two-day Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS)-sanctioned event has grown by leaps and bounds in all the years since – incorporating live performances by local bands, a slew of food and craft vendors, and family-friendly activities. Admission and parking are FREE, and 100% of the proceeds benefit Home of Hope – a local charity devoted to the well-being of homeless children, their young mothers and teens aging out of the foster care system. This year’s festival will take place Friday March 3 and Saturday March 4 at Coolray Field, and organizers are already predicting that it will be their largest event to date.

“As word spreads year after year, we not only experience larger crowds, but also increased interest from competitors, vendors, bands and sponsors,” said Jim Lloyd, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Home of Hope, organizer of the Sip & Swine BBQ Festival, and CEO of Lawrenceville-based InsuranceHub Leavitt Agency. “For the first time in the festival’s history, we have already hit our cap on competitors, and we have one team joining us from all the way in Australia! From here in the U.S., we have a dozen states represented, including competition teams from all over the South and some of our Northern and Midwestern neighbors like New York, Maryland, Ohio and Illinois. We’re expecting a lot of different flavors represented at this year’s event, influenced by all those various regions.”

To date, the Sip & Swine BBQ Festival has raised $742k on behalf of Home of Hope at Gwinnett Children’s Shelter – a residential care facility that has endeavored to end the cycle of homelessness two generations at a time – since 1987. Proceeds from competition fees, vendors fees, raffle ticket sales and the purchase of People’s Choice Taster Kits support Home of Hope’s mission to strengthen children, youth and families in crisis by providing a broad array of counseling and supportive services in a safe and nurturing environment.

“The need is very real here in Gwinnett,” added Lloyd. “2,000 kids in the Gwinnett County Public School System identify as homeless, and as access to affordable housing continues to decline, those numbers are expected to grow. Families everywhere are feeling the sting of inflation, so what better way to do something good for your community than to gather together for a free, family-focused event that benefits a wonderful local charity. For those attendees who wish to impact Home of Hope directly, we encourage them to purchase a People’s Choice Taster Kit for just $12 each. They’ll get to sample from 9 randomly selected competitors and share their personal pick for favorite – it’s good food for a good cause. We’ve made it our goal to ‘smoke’ the fundraising results from previous years, so we invite everyone to come out and enjoy this one-of-a-kind festival. You can even bring your dog, as long as they’re friendly and on a leash.”

The People’s Choice Tasting will take place Saturday, March 4 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. In addition to free admission and award-worthy barbecue, attendees will hear live music from local bands, shop the wares from talented craft vendors and take part in a variety of family-friendly activities. Marking its fourth year, Sip & Swine welcomes back its Kids Q Competition for aspiring chefs aged 6 to 15. For a $25 entry fee, pre-registered pint-sized pit masters will have an opportunity to compete at the festival, as well.

2023 Sip & Swine BBQ Festival Event Schedule:

To kick off the event, 80+ craft and 40 food vendors will sell their goods as 110+ BBQ competition teams get set up from 3 to 9 PM on Friday, March 3. Live music will enhance the atmosphere from 5:30-7:30 PM. 

The schedule for the Sip & Swine Festival for Saturday, March 4 – including music lineup is:

10 AM – Event opens to public – including food and craft vendors, face painting, pet adoptions with Fur Kids and more 

11 AM-12:15 PM – The Jonathan Ingram Band performs

11:30 AM-1:30 PM – People’s Choice BBQ Tasting 

12:30-1:45 PM – The Midland Station Band performs 

2-3:15 PM – Dock Rock Radio performs 

3:30-5 PM – Pickup Line performs

5 PM – BBQ awards ceremony

6 PM – Event ends

The returning Grand Champion Sponsor for this year’s Sip & Swine Festival is Hendrick Automotive Group and the six dealerships it represents. Coolray Field is located at 2500 Buford Drive in Lawrenceville. For additional information about the event or to sign on as a vendor, sponsor or volunteer, please visit www.sipandswine.com. To learn more about Home of Hope at Gwinnett Children’s Shelter or make a direct donation online, please visit www.homeofhopegcs.org

About Home of Hope at Gwinnett Children’s Shelter: Focused on ending homelessness two generations at a time, Home of Hope at Gwinnett Children’s Shelter is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and a residential care facility that provides services for homeless infants and children up to 17 years of age along with their young mothers. Home of Hope also offers care and services for homeless girls aging out of the foster care system at 18 years of age. It provides customized “Life Plans” that are designed around the physical, emotional and educational needs of the children it serves, while helping their mothers develop a plan of action to get back on their feet. Not wishing to serve simply as a place of refuge, Home of Hope at Gwinnett Children’s Shelter is the “NEXT STEP” towards independence. It takes its guests from homelessness, to hopeful, to a home of their own. To learn more about Home of Hope at Gwinnett Children’s Shelter, visit www.homeofhopegcs.org