Like Michelle Obama, The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority Touts Area's BBQ

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

The stupidest "story" you'll encounter all day is the Drudge-hyped "gaffe" allegedly committed when an email announcement that next year's Democratic National Convention will be held in Charlotte mentioned "great barbecue." Politico, for example, says of the email that went out under Michelle Obama's name, "The gaffe was enough to make you wonder whether the White House had simply cut and pasted Southern clichés to create the first lady's announcement."

What's the problem? Well, according to Politico, a Charlotte Observer noted that the "best" barbecue is not in Charlotte, but in Lexington -- which is about an hour from Charlotte. Politico considered that justification for its snide comments about gaffes and cliches. The Associated Press chimed in, too, with an article noting that the "barbecue center" of Shelby is "about an hour west of Charlotte."

So, in describing Charlotte, a city with two separate renowned barbecue destinations within an hour's drive, the Obama email mentioned "great barbecue." And this is supposed to be a "gaffe" and an indication that someone "simply cut and pasted Southern cliches." Yes, that's stupid because it's utterly trivial. But it's also stupid because it's … well, it's stupid. Even if you concede that it's impossible to find good barbecue in Charlotte, that doesn't matter. People who visit a new part of the country do not necessarily confine themselves to city limits. It's like mocking someone for saying that while visiting Los Angeles, they plan to visit Disneyland. Ha! Disneyland is in Anaheim, not L.A.! Or that a visit to New York City might involve catching a Jets game. Ha! They play in New Jersey!

But don't take my word for it. Let's see who else touts "great barbecue" as something to experience while visiting Charlotte:

"My favorite Charlotte event has to be Time Warner Cable BBQ & Blues! [Sept. 9-10] It's the best of a Carolina tradition with great BBQ, music and fun for everyone to enjoy right in the middle of Uptown Charlotte."

That's a quote from Robert Krumbine, chief creative officer of Charlotte Center City Partners, and it can be found in the 2011 Charlotte Official Visitor's Guide produced by the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. (The visitor's guide contains listings for businesses in both Lexington and Shelby, another reminder that they're really close to Charlotte.)

The CRVA also produces a "Taste of Charlotte" sample itinerary to help people "discover all the fun things to see & do in Charlotte." And, what do you know, it emphasizes barbecue, too:

Barbecue is a non-negotiable must-have in North Carolina, so stop by Mac's Speed Shop for a taste of some Southern favorites including pulled pork, ribs, chili, Brunswick stew, and Mac's own delectable mac n' cheese. Half biker bar and half restaurant, this spot has earned a tasty reputation. Connoisseurs like renowned chef Mario Batali and Rick Browne of TV's "Barbecue America" are big fans.

It's entirely reasonable to refer to barbecue when talking about visiting Charlotte. And it's entirely trivial and utterly stupid to mock someone who does so for "cut[ting]and past[ing] Southern cliches." If Politico doesn't agree, they should take it up with the Charlotte Regional Visitor's Authority.

Associated Press
Charlotte Observer, Politico
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