Organizers for the 19th Annual Squealin’ On the Square are hoping the first hint of fall weather expected this Saturday will inspire people to make the trip to Laurens Historic Square for one of the state’s top barbecue festivals.
“This is a big festival weekend in the Upstate,” said Main Street Laurens Executive Director Jonathan Irick. “This year, we don’t have to contend with Clemson, (South Carolina) or (Presbyterian College) home football games, so we’re expecting a little larger turnout.”
Temperatures are forecast to be in the mid-70s on Saturday as well, and Irick said the autumnal temperatures will be welcome after recent struggles on the weather front.
“In 2016, we got rained out completely, and then in 2017 we got rain on Saturday,” he said. “And last year it was hot as blue blazes. This is the first year in a good long while that we’ve had a good forecast for the weekend.”
Irick said this year’s Squealin’ on the Square will feature several new crafts vendors and one new barbecue vendor.
“We’re excited to have the new food vendors and craft vendors and all the new people who are coming to participate,” he said.
Eighteen barbecue teams will be competing in the annual Kansas City BBQ Society contest. That number is down somewhat from previous years.
“We try to have 25 teams, but apparently another barbecue contest was added in the lower part of the state, so it pulled some teams down there from us, and we had a couple with some health issues.”
Around 200 volunteers are set to help bring Squealin’ to life. The event is a fundraiser for Main Street Laurens and volunteers are essential for everything from parking to selling tickets for food and drinks.
Irick said a couple of additional ticket booths have been added this year along with wireless credit card processors for faster service.
This year also marks the debut of the Hog Wild 1-mile run, which is set for Saturday at 9 a.m. Registration is ongoing. Runners can register beginning on 8 a.m. Saturday as well. Entry fee is $15 and proceeds will benefit the Laurens Police Department’s Christmas in the City program and the Laurens YMCA’s youth scholarship fund.
Vendors and barbecue teams will begin arriving Friday afternoon and entertainment will begin with local band Vinyl at 5 p.m. on the square. Vance Kennedy & Barksdale Station follows at 8 p.m. Saturday’s music includes West End Trio (10 a.m.-noon), Jukebox 45 (12:30-2:30 p.m.) and Soulified 7 (3-5 p.m.)
The Flashbacks close out the festival with retro rock, beach music and soul from 6-8 p.m. Saturday.