VALDOSTA, Ga. (AP) — The Historic Lowndes County Courthouse square was flooded with residents as music filled the air and the smell of ribs, chicken and pulled pork wafted through streets Aug. 4 for the 24th Annual 100 Black Men Barbecue.

The 100 Black Men is a mentoring group founded in the 1960s to help direct youth in a positive direction in life, according to members.

More than 20 barbecue vendors competed in a heated competition to take home the gold, but also to raise money for scholarships for students throughout the year, said Nathaniel Haugabrook, president of the 100 Black Men of Valdosta.

The competition was split into two categories: chicken and ribs.

In the ribs category, Creations by Mike took first place. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity took second place and Georgia Bible camp third.

In the chicken category, Taste of the Island took first place. Matchett Carter took second place and Flames of Flavor took third.

The cook-off is one of the group's major fundraisers for the year, Haugabrook said.

"This is our way of raising money to help them with and to help with our mentoring program," he said.

Through the years, the barbecue event has continued to grow.

"We literally started out with a handful of people," Haugabrook said. "At some times, we have reach numbers of 8,000 to 10,000 people in the courthouse square.

"It's one way of giving back to the community," he said. "Not everyone was born with a silver spoon in their mouth. This is a way for us to help the youth in this community whether it's mentoring, health and wellness, which is not just involving the youth but the plethora of the community and scholarship dollars are always needed by students to further their education."

Thomas Newbern and his employer, First Federal Savings of Valdosta, has worked with the 100 Black Men Barbecue since it began 24 years ago.

"We believe in education, and we believe in educating our youth for a better tomorrow," Newbern said.

Because he has been a part of the fundraiser for 24 years, Newbern said the fundraiser has reaped benefits for the community.

"This event has been really good for the community," he said. "It brings a lot of vendors from the community and outside the community for a common-core purpose. And the barbecue is fantastic and the ribs are fantastic. It's a fun day. It's a fun day for the community and we are lucky to have it."

Michael Sackenheim recently moved to Valdosta through the Air Force and happened upon the festivities while looking to explore Downtown Valdosta with his wife and children.

"We had a great time out here today and ate at Creations by Mike," he said. "Had some pulled pork, ribs and sausage; that was awesome. We are new to the area and it's been a great way to get to know Valdosta."

James McClain with Flames of Flavor, also known as The Blazin' Hog Barbecue, has participated in the barbecue competition before and sported dozens of trophies at his stand; however, having won in the past, what makes McClain "feel good" is being able to help his community because of his past.

McClain said he has been in prison three times but has been rehabilitated and out of trouble for 12 years, he said.

"I work everyday and I take care of my family; this is what I love to do," he said.

As for what it means to be able to serve ribs to residents, McClain grew a big smile and said: "It means a lot to come out here and see everyone smile. I love it."

___

Information from: The Valdosta Daily Times, http://valdostadailytimes.com/