You have read 1 of your 3 free articles.
Subscribe to unlock full access.

Holy Smokes Draws Thousands of Barbecue Fans to the Lowcountry

Smokin' on the Ashley

More than 3,000 attendees turned out at the Bend for the 2021 Holy Smokes Lowcountry Barbecue Festival
More than 3,000 attendees turned out at the Bend for the 2021 Holy Smokes Lowcountry Barbecue Festival (Paul Cheney)

By Dispatch Staff

Thousands of barbecue fans converged on the banks of the Ashley River on Saturday for the inaugural Holy Smokes Lowcountry Barbecue Festival. The event brought together more than two dozen acclaimed pitmasters, eight from the Carolinas and another 17 from as far away as Texas and Connecticut.

“I was extremely pleased with the turnout,” says Anthony DiBernardo of Swig ‘n Swine BBQ, one of the organizers of the festival. “After all the months of planning and preparation, to be in the middle of it and watching it all unfold was something special.”

And it was all for a good cause, too. Proceeds from Holy Smokes will benefit Hogs for the Cause, a nonprofit organization based in New Orleans that assists families battling pediatric brain cancer. A portion of those funds will be earmarked specifically for patients at the MUSC Children’s Hospital in Charleston.

The event was staged at The Bend in North Charleston, and the pitmasters split up into three culinary villages, each representing a different style of American barbecue. The cooks collaborated with smoke and fire to create a series of dishes ranging from traditional chopped whole hog to a New School barbecue take on an old Lowcountry classic, shrimp and grits.

Here’s a photographic recap of just a few of the highlights from a long afternoon of barbecue and music.

BBQ chicken with Alabama white sauce, collards, and pimento cheese potato salad in the Traditional Village at Holy Smokes
BBQ chicken with Alabama white sauce, collards, and pimento cheese potato salad in the Traditional Village at Holy Smokes (Lindy Simmons)

North Carolina's Sam Jones chopping whole hog in the Traditional Village
North Carolina's Sam Jones chopping whole hog in the Traditional Village (Ken Goodman)

Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson BBQ dunking chickens in the signature Alabama-style white sauce invented by Big Bob almost a century ago
Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson BBQ dunking chickens in the signature Alabama-style white sauce invented by Big Bob almost a century ago (Ken Goodman)

Nashville's Mac Leaphart kicked off the music performances at the 2021 Holy Smokes Lowcountry Barbecue Festival
Nashville's Mac Leaphart kicked off the music performances at the 2021 Holy Smokes Lowcountry Barbecue Festival (Paul Cheney)

The Texas Village assembled pitmasters from the Lone Star State as well as local brisket masters like John Lewis of Lewis BBQ
The Texas Village assembled pitmasters from the Lone Star State as well as local brisket masters like John Lewis of Lewis BBQ (Paul Cheney)

Leo Bottello of Houston's Truth BBQ slicing brisket in the Texas Village at Holy Smokes
Leo Bottello of Houston's Truth BBQ slicing brisket in the Texas Village at Holy Smokes (Ken Goodman)

More than two dozen acclaimed pitmasters from around the country gathered in the Lowcountry for Holy Smokes
More than two dozen acclaimed pitmasters from around the country gathered in the Lowcountry for Holy Smokes (Robert Jacob Lerma)

The 2021 Holy Smokes Pitmaster Lineup

  • Michael Bessinger (Bessinger’s BBQ, Charleston, South Carolina)
  • Chris Lilly (Big Bob Gibson BBQ, Decatur, Alabama)
  • Ronnie Evans & Philip Moseley (Blue Oak BBQ, New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • Elliott Moss (Buxton Hall, Asheville, North Carolina)
  • Patrick Feges & Erin Smith (Feges BBQ, Houston, Texas)
  • Jonathan & Justin Fox (Fox Bros., Atlanta, Georgia)
  • Tank Jackson (Holy City Hogs, Charleston, South Carolina)
  • Aaron Siegel & Taylor Garrigan (Home Team BBQ, Charleston, South Carolina)
  • Billy Durney (Hometown BBQ, New York, New York)
  • Cody Sperry (Hoodoo Brown BBQ, Ridgefield, Connecticut)
  • Evan Leroy (Leroy And Lewis BBQ, Austin, Texas)
  • John Lewis (Lewis BBQ, Charleston, South Carolina)
  • Madison Ruckel (Mama Jean’s BBQ, Roanoke, Virginia)
  • Pat Martin (Martin’s Bar-B-Que, Nashville, Tennessee)
  • Carey Bringle (Peg Leg Porker, Nashville, Tennessee)
  • Rodney Scott (Rodney Scott’s BBQ, Charleston, South Carolina)
  • Sam Jones (Sam Jones BBQ, Winterville & Raleigh, North Carolina)
  • Harrison Sapp & Griffin Buffkin (Southern Soul Barbeque, St. Simons Island, Georgia)
  • Anthony Dibernardo (Swig & Swine BBQ, Charleston, South Carolina)
  • Leo Botello (Truth BBQ, Houston, Texas)

More than 3,100 paid guests attended the Holy Smokes Lowcountry Barbecue Festival at The Bend
More than 3,100 paid guests attended the Holy Smokes Lowcountry Barbecue Festival at The Bend (Paul Cheney)

The New School village included creative live-fire dishes like reverse-seared NY strips with root veggie aligot and smoked beef jus
The New School village included creative live-fire dishes like reverse-seared NY strips with root veggie aligot and smoked beef jus (Paul Cheney)

Dishing up shrimp and grits with smoked barbecue shrimp in the New School Village
Dishing up shrimp and grits with smoked barbecue shrimp in the New School Village (Paul Cheney)

The VIP Area featured upscale bites like char-grilled oysters from chef David Bancroft of Acre in Auburn, Alabama
The VIP Area featured upscale bites like char-grilled oysters from chef David Bancroft of Acre in Auburn, Alabama (Paul Cheney)

Headliner Elizabeth Cook of Nashville closed out the 2021 Holy Smokes Lowcountry Barbecue Festival
Headliner Elizabeth Cook of Nashville closed out the 2021 Holy Smokes Lowcountry Barbecue Festival (Paul Cheney)

With more than 3,100 paid guests, the first outing of the festival sold out, and now the organizers are looking toward the future.

“Even before Saturday the plan was to make this an annual event,” DiBernardo says, “and I think with the success we had in our first year we will undoubtedly be back next year.”

About the Author

Dispatch Staff

The hardworking team behind the Southeastern Dispatch