By Nancy De Gennaro
Source: The Daily News Journal
Economic growth may have rerouted the roads in Blackman and brought a few more thousand people into the unincorporated community, but progress has failed to stop the longest-standing tradition in the community.
“This will be the 66th annual Blackman Barbecue,” said John L. Batey, local businessman, farmer and lifelong member of the Blackman Community.
The annual Blackman Community Club fundraising barbecue is always held the fourth Friday in June. This year, it’s being held at Lane Agri-Park, 315 John Rice Blvd. in Murfreesboro. But expect that to change next year, said event chairman Marshall Campbell.
“Next year we’re probably going to have it at The Grove (at Williamson Place) over by Batey’s Berry Farm,” said Campbell, who moved his family into the community just a few years ago.
The barbecue was originally held on the McDonald farm in the Blackman Community to raise funds to build a community center for the club, which was established in 1947. Funds were raised to build the Blackman Community Club, 4310 Manson Pike, where the event eventually moved and stayed for decades.
For the most part, the menu has stayed the same throughout the event: barbecue sandwich, baked beans, slaw and chips.
“The first three or four years, we had our choice of pork barbecue or goat barbecue,” said Batey, a hog farmer. “They got it from what was called the old 41 Club on Old Nashville Highway.”
Location for the screened-in barbecue pit was just a few miles from the community center. The ladies of the community would go in the morning and pick up the barbecued meat, take it back and chop it up by hand for the barbecue sandwiches that would be served at the event.
The women would also chop up cabbage and carrots to make slaw, Batey said.
Members of Blackman’s home demonstration club, now known as the Family Community Education Club (FCE), would also sell homemade ice cream.
“And every family would take home two gallons of beans and they all had the same recipe to follow so the baked beans tasted the same,” Batey recalled. “By the time we got ready, we were worn out.”
In addition to food, families could enjoy fellowship.
“For years, having it at the club was almost like a homecoming,” Campbell said.
Batey said there were wagon rides for kids, cake walks, games and even a dunking machine.
“We also had square dancing every year,” Batey said. “We had a lot of entertainment. So many different things for all ages.”
As the city of Murfreesboro grew, so did the Blackman Community. And the barbecue grew in size and popularity, too.
The event got so big, “we just had to move it,” Batey said.
Since 2012, the Blackman Barbecue has been held at Lane Agri-Park and draws around 400-500 patrons.
“We’ve served as many as a thousand,” Campbell said. But since 2015 is not an election year, he thinks the crowd will hover around 500.
Proceeds from the annual event benefit a variety of club projects. And just recently, after nearly 70 years in existence, the Blackman Community Club finally garnered an official 501c3 nonprofit charity status, Campbell said.
Money helps fund two $500 college scholarships for graduating Blackman High seniors.
“We also adopt a family at Thanksgiving, one at Christmas and one at Easter,” Campbell said.
The club purchases holiday dinners and provides gifts at Christmastime.
“The money also goes to the upkeep of the club. We’ve got a playground set that’s open to everyone. And the club can be rented out, too. It’s an old building, so it’s harder to keep that up,” Campbell said.
Tickets for Blackman Barbecue can be purchased at the door. Cost is $12 for adults and $6 for ages 10 and younger. Julia’s Sweet Truck will be on site to sell treats.
And while the food is definitely a draw, Campbell said the best part of the Blackman Barbecue is getting to meet your neighbors.
“This is a social event. It’s a great time to socialize with others in the Blackman Community as well as Murfreesboro as a whole,” Campbell said.
The Blackman Barbecue has always drawn the politicians, Batey said, especially during election years.