Pickles, Pigs & Swigs draws rave reviews

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One by one, they climbed into the nearest empty pickle barrel.

There was just one problem.

No driver.

“Who leaves the train when they’ve got riders?” a young boy asked.

A few seconds passed before the “conductor” – Josh Phillips – returned from a much-needed pit stop. The Mount Olive Parks and Recreation Department director smiled as he took a little razzing from the cheeky riders.

“Who wants to go fast?” he asked.

A chorus of “me’s” erupted and Phillips grinned as he stepped on the gas pedal. Screams and cheers filled the air, while parents either filmed the moment on their cell phones or took pictures to freeze the moment in time.

The pickle train emerged as the biggest highlight during the inaugural Pickles, Pigs & Swigs festival held in downtown Mount Olive on Saturday.

A clear blue sun-splashed sky provided the perfect backdrop for the day-long event that drew rave reviews. Festival-goers didn’t walk away either hungry or thirsty, and they tapped their toes or sang along to music provided by some of eastern North Carolina’s top bands.

Though no official attendance was recorded, organizers said they were more than pleased with the turnout.

“We’ve learned a few things, taken some notes for next year,” said PPS chair Julie Beck while she strolled down Center Street to check on barbecue plate sales and visit with vendors.

“We certainly couldn’t have asked for better weather.”

PPS actually started in the late hours Friday evening.

A total of 20 teams gathered in the town hall parking lot for the Whole Hog Cooking Contest. They had 12 hours to cook pigs that were sampled early Saturday morning by judges from the NC Pork Council.

Each lead cook watched as the judges checked for moisture, texture, skin color and other criteria. After they dipped the pork into different-flavored sauces, they cleaned off their gloves and scored each pig.

Picking & Grilling BBQ, headed by Kevin Wooten, emerged as the first PPS champion. Kevin Peterson of Showtimes Legit BBQ claimed second place and Wilders Old-Style BBQ from Dudley took third.

Each winner received a cash prize and engraved meat cleaver.

PPS committee member Carrie Bell Shields thanked Smithfield Foods for donating the pigs in support of the festival. She said the cook teams provided some insight on the scoring.

“Overall, I am very pleased and think the event will grow more and more annually,” Shields said.

Filled with a hearty meal and with a craft beer from R&R Brewing in hand, festival-goers sat up lawn chairs and tried to find shady spots in Southern Bank park. A cool breeze carried the aromas of freshly-ground coffee and kettle popcorn through the air.

Some sat on the grass or stood in small groups as they listened to Shannon Baker & Sometime Band, hometown favorite the Harmony Boys and the all-female band Riggsbee Road. Each group provided its own unique style of music that ranged from gospel, bluegrass, golden oldies and cover songs of other genres.

Student volunteers from the University of Mount Olive assisted with barbecue plate sales. The cook teams chopped up the pork and added the sauce. The students added cole slaw, potatoes and hush puppies to the plates.

Proceeds from the festival go toward future downtown revitalization efforts.

To view more pics from the Pickles, Pigs & Swigs festival, visit the link below:

https://recordpublishing.zenfolio.com/p159369636

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