Fourth of July — Beaufort County style

Published 1:34 am Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Shawn Ragaglia (left) prepares to eat the last of his 10 hot dogs during the hot dog-eating contest, which he won, on the Washington waterfront Monday. (WDN Photo/Mike Voss)

Heat, hot dogs and fireworks — some of the usual ingredients for a Fourth of July celebration. They were prevalent during the Independence Day celebration on Washington’s waterfront Monday.
Scores of folks faced summer temperatures to celebrate Independence Day not only in Washington, but in Belhaven and other communities in Beaufort County.
The Washington celebration was a collaborative effort organized by the city, Washington Harbor District Alliance and Lee Chevrolet-Buick. A host of sponsors help foot the bill for the event.
Shawn Ragaglia, 27, a Washington resident, downed 10 Warren’s hot dogs in five minutes and nine seconds to win the hot dog-eating contest sponsored by Coldwell Banker Coastal Rivers Realty. Six contestants participated. Washington’s Mac “Bear” Hodges took an early lead, but he faded in the final two minutes of the contest.
“Swallow,” replied Ragaglia when asked about this technique. “That’s it, swallow them whole.”
“It’s not as filling as I thought it’s going to be,” he said moments after swallowing his last hot dog. “I thought I’d be little bit more full than this.”
The band Spare Change took the new performance stage at Festival Park from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. to provide musical entertainment. The fireworks show, staged over the Pamlico River, was slated for 9 p.m.
In the northeast corner of Beaufort County, Belhaven celebrated its 69th-consecutive observance of Independence Day. After the Little Miss Independence Pageant at the John A. Wilkinson Center, the town hosted its breakfast for dignitaries and traditional parade. About a mile west of town, the Pungo Volunteer Fire Department put on its annual mud run. A fireworks show scheduled for 9 p.m. was expected to cap the town’s celebration.
The town’s celebration began Saturday with a hot dog-eating contest, the Lucky Duck Regatta, Twilight Hour at the Belhaven Community Chamber of Commerce, a street dance and the Miss Independence Pageant at the Wilkinson Center. It continued Sunday with musical entertainment by groups such as the Brotherhood of Harmony, Double Portion and Coletrain.
The Fourth of July wasn’t a day off for Jerry Sneed with the East Carolina Cornhole League. Before noon Monday, Sneed and other league members were preparing the site for a cornhole tournament as part of Washington’s Fourth of July celebration.
The tournament was one of the celebration’s biggest attractions, aside from the fireworks show.
“We’re out of Greenville. There are three of us who kind of run it,” Sneed said of the league. “We have leagues. We have tournaments we run for people, parties, fundraisers. We’re having one out here (Monday) for the Fourth (of July).”
Sneed said the prize money for Monday’s tournament likely would be about $1,000.
Tournament participants were expected to come from Raleigh, Rocky Mount, Virginia Beach, Va., and area residents from Washington and Greenville, Sneed said.
The East Carolina Cornhole League is not new to Washington. It’s made appearances at Music in the Streets, held the third Friday in Washington from April through October.
“We come out with a set of boards. We call it Beat the Champs. Two of will come out and play anybody — give then 15 points. If they beat us, they get a free slice of pizza from one of the pizza joints here or ice cream from Scoops,” Sneed said.
Asked why he believes cornhole tournaments seem to have become popular in recent years, Sneed said, “It’s really cheap to play. Women can play it. Kids can play it. Adults, seniors — it doesn’t matter. Anybody can play it.  There’s a distance for everybody. Once you get going, you get hooked.”
Cornhole probably is best described as a competitive bean-bag toss with a scoring system, rules and game variations.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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