After 70 years of celebration, Altavista’s Uncle Billy’s Day Festival was forced to cancel in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in June of 2020 and 2021.
This year, the festival is back on, but in a different fashion than usual.
Altavista On Track, the town’s Main Street program, is set to host the first Uncle Billy’s BBQ, Bourbon & Beer Festival from noon to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, at English Park in Altavista.
It’s not the same Uncle Billy’s Day, but it still honors W.G. (Uncle Billy) Lane Sr., one of the first residents in Altavista back in the early 1900s.
Lane would host farmers from the area on the first Saturday of the month to the town to sell their goods, an early style of a farmers market. The event evolved into an annual festival that featured live music, food trucks, and other vendors to celebrate the original Trade Lot where Lane would set up his market.
“We’re not looking to replace Uncle Billy’s Day,” George Sandridge, the Executive Director for Altavista on Track said. “We want people to know that this is a new event that we hope will catch on and be very popular like Uncle Billy’s Day was.”
The event will have barbecue chefs participate in a competition for the best barbecue at the festival. There will be some things familiar to Uncle Billy’s Days of the past, such as food and dessert vendors, providing the traditional carnival-style food options.
Sharon Williams, the director of community development for the Town of Altavista, will be one of the barbecue competition judges, but that isn’t the only thing she is looking forward to at the festival.
“I think my pleasure will come from just seeing our community together,” Williams said. “I’m excited to be one of the barbecue judges, but seeing our community in one place is the one thing that I am most looking forward to.”
The event will feature bourbon and beer vendors, who will be providing samples, as well as drinks for purchase. All ticket holders that are 21+ will have the option to sample or buy drinks, but VIP ticket holders will have access to two free drinks, one free barbecue meal, a collectable 16-ounce event cup and token.
Bands, including Five Dollar Shake, Shades of Gray, and Midnight Express, will provide live music for the event throughout the day.
After all the festivities are over, there will be a fireworks show that will “close out the event in a nod to Uncle Billy’s Day,” according to the festival’s website.
Altavista Town Councilman Tim George knows the impact Uncle Billy’s Day has in the community, but he’s excited for the town to see what this new festival can bring.
“Altavista is very excited about this new path that we’re taking,” George said.
“It is a 360 from the former Uncle Billy’s day festival, but there will still be plenty of fun things to do for the whole family and I hope it will show people that may have never before visited our town how unique and interesting Altavista is.”
Guests have the option of purchasing tickets online at unclebillysbbq.org for a discounted rate or can wait to purchase tickets at the gate. VIP tickets will not be available for a same-day purchase at the event.
Those interested in entering their barbecue into the competition can find information on how to sign up on the website as well.
“We haven’t really had that many community-oriented events in the last year and a half since COVID-19,” Sandridge said. “So this will be a great event to get people out and about to enjoy the great festival.”