Hundreds flock to R-C Pork Fest

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 8, 2004

MURFREESBORO – They came, they saw, they ate.

That’s about as simple as it got here Saturday where, despite overcast skies and unseasonably cool weather for early June, hundreds of barbecue lovers packed the ground of the Jefcoat Museum for the third annual Roanoke-Chowan Pork Fest.

&uot;From everything I heard and judging by the size of the crowd, I think things went really well,&uot; said Pork Fest chairman Jimmy Gray. &uot;I had one man visiting here from South Carolina to tell me that if you want to find some good barbecue, then eastern North Carolina is the place to be. He was real, real pleased with the meal he was served.&uot;

So were hundreds of others.

With 12 cooking teams from throughout eastern ‘Carolina vying for cash and trophies, the real winners were those that purchased a ticket for the all-you-can-eat meal, complete with potatoes, slaw, hushpuppies and tea. Once all that pork was cooked, it was finely chopped and seasoned. The end result was pork fit for a king.

&uot;I got a chance to sample a few of the pigs after they were cooked and before all that pork was chopped,&uot; admitted Gray. &uot;From what I tasted, the judges had a tough job in selecting the top three cookers.&uot;

Those judges – Ashley Blizzard of the North Carolina Pork Council along with the husband and wife team of Horace and Mary Parker of Rocky Mount – made their rounds among the cooking sites. At each stop, they checked the pigs for doneness, moisture content, and, most of all, taste.

The first place winner was Charlie Meeks of Newport. This was the third win in six attempts for Meeks during the 2004 competitive cook-offs around the state. He has earlier wins in Garner and Kinston.

&uot;I really wasn’t pleased with the overall color of the finished product, but that apparently didn’t hurt my score,&uot; said Meeks, the 2001 North Carolina State Champion Cooker who has been cooking competively since 1991.

He continued, &uot;I’ve completed against the majority of the cookers that were here this weekend and all of them do a great job. This was a pretty tough field to compete against and I feel very fortunate to have come away with a win.&uot;

While Meeks, as do all the cookers, wouldn’t share the ingredients that make up his tasty sauce, he did say it’s the sauce that can push you to the top of the score sheet.

&uot;Mine is made with nine ingredients,&uot; he shared. &uot;I do not heat my sauce, rather I let it sit and blend together for 7-10 days prior to competition.&uot;

Leslie Deaton and Danny Clapton, both of Roanoke Rapids, respectively placed second and third.

In showmanship – a side show all on its own where the cooking sites are dotted with pig related nick-naks and other eye-catching items – Charles Chestnut of Littleton earned first place with Earl Fowler claiming runner-up honors.

In addition to the pig cooking contest, Pork Fest patrons were treated to a day crammed full of other activities. Included were music, cloggers, craft vendors, a display of antique automobiles, a special salute to the 60th anniversary of D-Day and tours of the famous Jefcoat Museum of Americana. The museum saw its 10,000th visitor admitted. She was Lorie Higbee of Como.

The final tally of the day’s events is still being counted. All proceeds benefit the Jefcoat Museum elevator fund, which recently passed the $60,000 mark en route to its $100,000 goal.