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BBQ Tour Stop #1: Newport, NC

April 14, 2010
Chris and I headed to North Carolina and the 32nd Annual Newport Pig Cookin' Contest. This event is the largest whole hog BBQ event in the USA. On the way, we stopped in Martinsville, VA and saw our friends, Tommy and Lisa Houston, to celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary at Pigs R Us. Tommy was nice enough to give us directions and asked if I wanted to drive the "scenic" route. Little did I know that the beautiful views could only be seen by driving up a mountain and back down a nine-degree downhill.

After dropping the trailer at the event site, we headed to the local Wal-Mart for supplies and got a big thumbs-up from an older gentleman on the drive in. The next day, the mayor stopped by and asked if we recognized him. After giving him a funny look, he raised his thumb and smiled!

This was the first event where we promoted Master of Mixes Margarita and Bloody Mary mixes. You should have seen people run to the sample tent when I announced free drink samples. That was until I informed them that our samples were non-alcoholic. I blamed it on the mayor.

This whole hog cooking event was much different than the standard KCBS cook-off. I have seen some whole hog cooks and expected a smiling pig face to greet me. All of these pigs were headless though and butterflied open. Where we are used to different rubs, seasonings and injections, most of the cooks we visited with just used salt or a light rub. One cook rubbed his pig with mayonnaise and then salt.

The scoring was also different because they look for a nice golden skin, moist meat and the skin to crack when the judges open the pig up for inspection. Most all the cookers looked alike also. The cookers were shorter, wider and most had three exhausts for cooking the different parts of the pig. They placed more heat on the hams and shoulders with less heat on the ribs.

Speaking of judges, there were four judges who ate parts of all 81 pigs that were entered. Here I thought it was enough to eat six samples of each category when we judged the Little Rock contest. Right after the judges tore through the pigs and wrote down their scores, a couple of guys with a big tub came by and loaded all the meat to take to the main gazebo. At the gazebo, another group of volunteers pulled all the bones out and loaded smaller tubs where yet another set of folks chopped and chopped and chopped the meat up into smaller pieces. The event sold 6,000 plates of food to patrons and even had a drive up line for people that wanted food to take home.

By the end of the event, Elvis had stopped by, we handed out hundreds of bags of samples, and nobody got hurt. As we rode away on our Master of Mixes motorized coolers, we knew that the Newport event will be tough to live up to because of the special people that made us feel like family.

Mike (& Chris) Peters

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