Hog Heaven

Published 4:19 pm Tuesday, June 4, 2024

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MURFREESBORO – People picked up pork by the pound and by the plate at Saturday’s PorkFest event in Murfreesboro.

Beach Boys BBQ teammates Chris Fineran (center) and Steve Sumner (right) receive their first-place check from James Byerly. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

It was the first time the annual event has been held since 2019, but this year it was under the direction of the Murfreesboro Volunteer Fire Department as a fundraiser to help support department operations.

There were a few changes from the previous event, which moved from the Jefcoat Museum grounds to the Murfree Center on Broad Street and the surrounding area.

MVFD members and other volunteers set up a tent outside if people wanted to eat their food onsite and also enjoy the other festivities, which included a vendor fair, a car/truck show, and music provided by DJ Jesse, RT Johnson, and Skosh throughout the afternoon.

The main event, however, was the barbecue. Twelve teams brought their cookers and set up on Friday, May 31 to get started cooking the hogs. The competition was a sanctioned NC Pork Council contest.

Beach Boys Barbecue was judged as the winning entry and earned $500. Chris Fineran and Steve Sumner are the defending North Carolina Pitmaster of the Year, an award they have earned on five other occasions. They have also captured a trio of first place awards at the prestigious state championship cookoff.

“For the most part, we do the same thing at each event we enter,” Fineran said. “Today, when we turned our pig over after the initial set, the skin on the hams were split. The top side was beautiful. We just continued cooking at our typical pace and those splits caramelized into the meat and you could not longer see the splits.”

When asked to rate the inaugural MVFD PorkFest, Fineran stated, “I didn’t see any hiccups with the way this event was done. Hats off to the Murfreesboro Fire Department for a top-notch event.”

“We’ve been in events that have been going on for years that were less organized than this one. I thought they (Murfreesboro VFD) did a very good job for a first-time event,” added Sumner.

The 2024 PorkFest also featured a vendors fair set up on the grounds of Hertford Academy. Staff Photo by Holly Taylor

Rounding out the top five cook teams at this year’s PorkFest were, Pocosin Boys BBQ (2nd), Grillfather (3rd), Backyard Bubba (4th), and Wicked Pig (5th). Second place paid $400; third place was good for $300; the fourth place finisher collected $200; and fifth place pocketed $100.

Three judges sanctioned by the NC Pork Council made their rounds to each cook site on Saturday morning. They based their scoring (poor-fair-good-very good-excellent) focused on appearance of the fully cooked pig, color of the skin, crispness of the skin, moisture of the meat, taste of the meet and sauce, and overall condition of the cook site.

“Skin crispness is the number one thing we look for,” said Charlie Martin, a Jamesville native now living in Greenville who has been a NC Pork Council judge for 43 years. “Every part of the skin needs to be crisp. You’ll get dinged in the judging for every soft spot we find in the skin.”

In addition to the barbecue competition, awards were given to participants of the car show. Categories included Chevrolet, Ford, and MoPAR, along with a special Chief’s Choice award.

Winners included Larry Davis (1st Place, Chevrolet), John W. Johnson (2nd Place, Chevrolet), Cliff and Jean Kumph (3rd Place Chevrolet), Robert White (1st Place Ford), Ann Byerly (2nd Place Ford), Edward Ward (1st Place MoPAR), Gary Byerly (2nd Place MoPAR), Bruce Pittman (3rd Place MoPAR), and Richard “Fireball” Jernigan (Chief’s Choice award).

“It’s probably one of the best fundraisers we’ve ever done,” said MVFD Chief Harrison Revelle who spoke to the News Herald after the event. “It all turned out very well.”

Volunteers form two lines inside the Murfree Center to prepare over 900 plates that were served at PorkFest on Saturday. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

Revelle said they made around 900 barbecue plates, and between 300-400 one-pound barbecue containers.

It took a lot of work, he said, noting that they cut and peeled enough potatoes to fill three large stewpots, and they cooked over 3,000 hushpuppies.

“We couldn’t have done it without the volunteers who stepped up and came to help us,” Revelle continued. “We can’t thank them enough.”

PorkFest included a variety of activities, to include a car show. Staff Photo by Holly Taylor

Revelle said they had a few bumps in the road for their first time hosting the event, but they appreciated the support from the community.

“There was many a mile walked and plenty of aching backs and sore legs come Sunday morning. But we pulled it off,” he explained. “We look forward to trying to work out some of our bugs and make it better next year. That’s all we can hope for.”

For those who missed all the great food and fun at the inaugural PorkFest, mark your calendars now for the 2025 event, which will be held May 30-31.

(R-C News-Herald Editor Cal Bryant contributed to this story.)