Ham Jam Arts Festival chairman Tim Moore stands next to the T-shirts that will be sold at the Main Street booth at this years event. Moore, who is excited about this years festival which runs April 19-20, said it will be a “test year” with many new events. One new event will be a People’s Choice Award for the tastiest barbecue chosen from among the volunteer competitors of the festival’s Memphis Barbecue Network-sanctioned event. “Blind” judging will be handled by patrons who will pay $5 to sample the pulled pork.
Ham Jam Arts Festival chairman Tim Moore stands next to the T-shirts that will be sold at the Main Street booth at this years event. Moore, who is excited about this years festival which runs April 19-20, said it will be a “test year” with many new events. One new event will be a People’s Choice Award for the tastiest barbecue chosen from among the volunteer competitors of the festival’s Memphis Barbecue Network-sanctioned event. “Blind” judging will be handled by patrons who will pay $5 to sample the pulled pork.
A People's Choice Award for the tastiest barbecue will be among the new additions to the 12th annual Ham Jam Arts Festival, its newly named chairman said.

Festival chairman Tim Moore, executive director of Main Street and the Chamber of Commerce, described this year's festival as a "test" year.

"We're getting back to basics and building on that," he said. "Nothing will be set in stone."

The festival, set for April 19-20, will include a few changes and additions from previous years.

Volunteer competitors from the festival's Memphis Barbecue Network-sanctioned event will have their barbecue "blind" judged by patrons wishing to pay $5 to sample their pulled pork.

Those patrons will vote for the People's Choice Award.

The contest will be held in a vacant building on Main Street across from the south side of the courthouse.

"It'll be a way that we can taste some of the barbecue the teams make," Moore said.

Currently there are nine teams participating in the annual barbecue competition.

Another barbecue related change is that Main Street will not be selling plates this year. Instead Dickey's Barbecue Pit will have a booth around the courthouse.

"We'll see how well it goes," Moore said. "Dickey's wanted to see how it would go and it might grow in years to come."

Other changes to the festival include not utilizing the south Byrd Avenue area in front of the historic Ellis Theater.

In years past, arts and crafts vendor were located in that area. However, it will be closed this year due to complaints about its sloping hill, Moore said.

Instead, additional crafts and food vendors were added to south Center Avenue.

Moore noted that there would be a few less arts and crafts vendors than last year but more food vendors due to the change.

Not all changes are additions to the festival.

Not a part of Ham Jam this year are the Miss Ham Jam Pageant, which began last year, and the Ham Jam Talent Competition, which ended with its seventh year in 2012.

"We've also moved the Jesus Jam to Saturday from 3-5 p.m.," Moore said, noting that the event was previously on Friday evening.

Instead, Friday night of Ham Jam will feature local band Bad Habit from 7 to 8 p.m. and Class Reunion from 8 to 10 p.m.

"It's a few changes to get more folks in on Friday," Moore said.

Another change will be the discontinuation of races with the exception of the 5K.

"We did it to keep it simple," Moore said. "Looking back at the past few years, we have not had that many 10K participants. Instead we went with the most popular. The hills in Philadelphia posed a challenge to some [of the racers]."

Moore said officials looked at all aspects of the two-day festival and decided to make a few adjustments.

"If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got," he said with a laugh.

"I want everyone to come out and support Main Street. The money all goes back into the community. Anything used to spruce up the community cannot be done without the community's support."

The festival begins at 7 p.m. Friday night and ends at 10 p.m. The Saturday race begins at 8 a.m. with the opening ceremony following at 8:15 and the national anthem at 8:30.

The festival ends at 6 p.m. Saturday.