Official Symbols and Emblems of Alabama
Official Alabama Barbecue Championship
The "Christmas on the River Cook-off" started in Demopolis in 1989 as part of "Christmas on the River" festivities. The Cook-off is an event involving teams from nine states, 75 judges and 8,000 barbecue fanatics. There are three competitions - ribs, shoulders and whole hog. The winner is eligible to participate in the World Championship "Memphis in May Barbeque Cooking Contest." In addition to the barbecue contest, arts, crafts, parades and dancing go on for a whole week.
When the first parade was held in 1972, the water pageant with fireworks was called "Christmas on the River." Now festivities begin on the Sunday before the first Saturday in December. Each year more events are added.
Other events include the crowning of St. Nicholas, Lighting of the Tree celebration, a community-wide church service, a live nativity scene, candlelight tour of ante-bellum homes, music, crafts and a children's parade.
Two year-round house museums have special evening tours featuring 19th century decorations of fresh fruit and greenery. Bluff Hall and Gaineswood host the "Christmas in the Canebrake" party on the night before the river parade.
Traditionally the Canebrake Players begin the annual celebration with a matinee, one of several performances during the week. The First Baptist Church choir forms a "Living Christmas Tree" at the civic center for two evenings. Another tradition is an open house on Friday at the historic Roberston Banking Co.
The grand finale is a parade of decorated floats on boats and fireworks.
The White Bluff where Napoleonic exiles landed in 1817 is the grandstand where thousands stand along a mile of river bank to view the glittering pageant on the water stage.
The Alabama Barbecue Championship became the official state barbecue championship by Act no. 91-739.
Christmas on the River
P.O. Box 667
Demopolis, AL 36732
Acts of Alabama, December 18, 1991
Christmas on the River Brochure, July, 1987
Updated: February 6, 2014