Pig-pickin’ pleasure

Published 1:34 pm Friday, June 11, 2010

By 10 a.m. Thursday morning, the beginnings of a tent city were springing up at Harmon Field in Tryon as preparations got under way for the 17th annual Blue Ridge Barbecue and Music Festival.

This years event, which will run Friday and Saturday, will play host to some 85 competitive cooking teams for the Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned cook-off, which also serves as the North Carolina State Barbecue Championship. The Governors Cup will be awarded to the winner along with $20,000 in cash and trophies to competitors.

Its going good. The vendors are trickling in, said Jerry Tyner, infield vendor chair for the festivals board of directors. Were getting the field set up, and were hoping the weather is going to help us.

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A few rain clouds were hovered over Harmon Field as Tyner spoke, but soon gave way to sunshine.

Even so, another cloud hangs over a festival that has seen growth and success, but still has no guarantee of continuing past this year.

Bill Milroy, owner of Texas Rib Rangers and a 16-year veteran of the competition, said the discontinuation of the festival would constitute a severe loss to the Tryon community.

When you sit down and start looking, [a considerable] amount of money comes into the community here,” said Milroy, who has traveled here each year from his home in Denton, Texas. “After we pay our percentages and pay for our supplies and everything, were probably looking at $20,000 that were going to leave in this community.

Itd be a shame to see this festival go away, especially after seeing how much its grown,” Milroy continued. “Were going to have about 90 teams here this weekend. Outside of Memphis, its the second-largest cook-off we have in the eastern part of the United States.

Tyner said this years festival needs to turn a tidy profit if it is to continue beyond this year.

We need to see some kind of profit margin this year because it has been lean in years past, Tyner said. Were just hoping attendance is going to help us meet that goal.

In addition to barbecue, attendees will be treated to a broad range of musical entertainment, which includes North Carolina-born country musician Seth Walker, singer-fiddler April Verch, who entertained at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, blues and jazz guitarist Geoff Achison and the eclectic mix of the Belleville Outfit.

About 50 artisans from across the southeast will also display and sell their wares at the Foothills Craft Fair, which is held in conjunction with the barbecue festival.

There will be works in a broad range of media, including wood, stone, metal, fabric, leather, glass, basketry and clay and others I probably failed to mention, said Kelly Sparks, crafts fair chair (see article, page 8).

In addition to the crafts fair, carnival rides, childrens activities and the second-annual Rubber Duckie River Race are scheduled.

Milroy said he has watched the event grow impressively ever since he made his debut here at the second-annual festival.

This is a legacy as far as cook-offs go, Milroy said. Ive sat here and watched it grow to from where it was to where its at today, and the community should be really proud of what you have because youve built a really, really good foundation here.