PAOLA — The 28th annual Roots Festival is set to take place Friday and Saturday, and it will once again fill Paola’s Park Square with blues music and the lofting aromas of barbecue.

One of the highlights of the festival will be the East Central Kansas State Barbecue Championship. More than 65 barbecue teams will once again compete at the festival during the championship, which Jon Smail will oversee. It is the 19th year the festival has hosted the championship.

Teams will be vying for winnings, and the top 10 overall winners, along with the top five winners in each category, will bring home prize money.

The winners will be announced around 3 p.m. Saturday at Town Square, and the grand champion earns an automatic bid to the American Royal competition.

As usual, food and arts and craft vendors and games and rides for children will provide fun for all ages on both days during the festival.

The fun will begin Friday at noon with Jazzercise Paola Fitness. The John Brown Boys will kick off the evening lineup at 5:30 p.m. They will be followed by Amanda Fish Band at 6:40 p.m., The Nightowls at 8 p.m., and Stoney LaRue at 9:30 p.m.

The music will continue Saturday, starting with Free Range Chicken at 11 a.m. They will be followed by The Basement Band at 12:10 p.m., Sound of Mind at 1:20 p.m., Blue Moon All-Stars at 2:30 p.m., Christopher Burnett Quintet at 3:50 p.m., The Brody Buster Band at 5:10 p.m., Amy Helm at 6:30 p.m., Paul Thorn at 8 p.m., and Vintage Trouble at 9:30 p.m.

The festival will continue rain or shine. Admission is $15 on Friday and $20 on Saturday or free for children ages 10 and younger.

One change this year is that there will be only two admission gates instead of four. The gates will be set up at the northwest and southeast corners.

Local residents also are asked to not set up chairs on the Square to reserve a spot any earlier than Thursday, because city crews typically mow on Wednesday.

Lee Mott, festival president, said the total cost of the event, including talent fees and all promotion, is about $95,000 this year. Funding for the festival comes from sponsors, vendor booth fees, admission fees and donations.

The Roots Festival started as the Paola Community Roots Reunion, a potluck picnic in Wallace Park in 1990. It has been growing ever since.

“It’s become a big reunion, and that’s what the original founders wanted it to be,” Mott said.

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