Barbecue fete returns Friday night

Published 1:52 am Sunday, October 16, 2011

A misty Smoke on the Water at dawn of 2010’s barbecue festival. (Contributed Photo/Jim Booth)

Once a year, the Washington waterfront is transformed.
A mini-city is built in a matter of hours as trucks haul in hulking pig cookers, tents rise and decorations go up. There’s a buzz of activity across Stewart Parkway, and then, as darkness descends, the unmistakable aroma of pork roasting arrives — just a whiff at first — its fragrant smoke wafting over the river.
Not to be missed, Smoke on the Water is Washington’s annual celebration of all things pig. Hosted by the Washington (noon) Rotary, the festival kicks off Friday night with its Pig Parade down Main Street and continues through the night as 26 cookers compete for top prize in the barbecue competition.
Saturday is jam-packed with events; some are favorites from previous years, some are recent additions to the schedule as the Rotarians continue to expand the festival yearly.
“Our goals are to be a very diverse, very family friendly event and to raise a lot of money for local charities,” said Jerry Evans, an event organizer.
Friday night, the Washington High School marching band — in New Orleans, second-line style — will escort the “sacrificial pig” down Main Street at 6:15 p.m. The parade time, originally listed as 6:30 p.m., changed to allow the WHS band to play at Music in the Streets and its homecoming game the same night.
As preparations for roasting the pigs are made, Josh Kay, Washington’s city manager, Lynnette Taylor, WITN news anchor, and Pam Anderson with Admix Agency, will be making the rounds, judging which barbecue contestant puts the prettiest face on his or her cooking site.
“There’s no real specifics,” said Anderson, when asked what criteria determine the top showmanship prize. “Sometimes, it’s how much trouble they’ve gone through. Past contestants have even set up tables laid with china and fed the judges.”
At 9 p.m., the pig cooking commences. Roasting will continue through the night because first thing Saturday morning, the judges — locals Brownie Futrell and Alan Pittman and Harris Vaughan of Raleigh — will begin sampling pork. Unlike the average person’s barbecue experience, these judges taste the pork before it’s sauced, sampling meat from different parts of the pig.
“What’s interesting about North Carolina competition is that you’re cooking a whole hog,” said Vaughan. “Flavor, skin crispiness, color, tenderness — it has to be consistent — and that’s hard to do when you’re cooking an animal of that size.”
Down the parkway, this year’s chili cook-off entries will, for a small fee, be available for sampling. By 11 a.m., as the crowds begin to gather for the announcement of Smoke on the Water’s 2011-contest winners, the tables will open for barbecue sandwich and chili sales.
Smoke on the Water isn’t all about the pig, though.  By 10 a.m., the waterfront will be bursting with people and activities: face painting and bounce houses for the children; Victor Hudson and his accompanist, 13 (who plays thirteen different instruments), playing on the main stage; and later in the day, the entertainment will be Double Portion, a bluegrass/gospel group from Belhaven. Sidewalk sales will line Main and Market streets, artisans and vendors will dot the waterfront and be at the Washington Civic Center, on the corner of Gladden and Main streets
The Beaufort County Arts Council’s 2011 Fine Arts Show will be open to the public.
New events associated with the festival this year include the Iron Paddle 200 kayak sprint, a Wells Fargo-stagecoach exhibit, a skydiving demonstration by Tradewinds Sky Sports and the Beaufort County Has Talent finals.
“I can’t lean toward one event, but I’ll definitely go to the fireman’s pull,” said Spencer Stanley, one of the event’s organizers. “This year, there’s really something for everyone.”
If Stanley can’t say which event he prefers, Vaughan certainly doesn’t hesitate to tell how to get his winning vote: “If any of the (barbecue) contestants want to know how to get to me, it’s easy — skin wins. Every time.”