APEX — Pigs will race, beer will flow, and lots of barbecue will be eaten.
The third annual Peak City Pig Fest is set for this weekend, with a kickoff celebration on Friday and judging on Saturday to crown the best of the best barbecue.
Last year’s event drew 20,000 people to downtown Apex, and organizers are expecting a bigger crowd this year.
“It got big pretty quick,” organizer Graham Wilson said of Pig Fest. “I tell people it’s two things: North Carolina barbecue and downtown Apex.”
The Apex Sunrise Rotary Club started the barbecue-themed festival as its signature event.
This year will feature some new additions. A beer garden will set up on Friday evening, when there will be live music. Last year’s event featured a beer garden only on Saturday.
“We wanted to see if we could draw a crowd Friday night,” Wilson said.
The 48 cook teams – up from 32 teams last year – will also mingle with the public behind The Halle Cultural Arts Center on Salem Street on Friday.
Then there’s the “anything butt” contests, where teams enter anything but barbecue for competition. Think entrees like steaks and shrimp and delicious desserts.
The main event on Saturday will feature barbecue for sale. But a new attraction is a food truck rodeo. Between 30 and 40 food vendors will set up downtown, Wilson said.
“Everybody was saying we didn’t have enough food,” he said of the group’s decision to add food trucks.
Also new this year will be pony rides and a mechanical bull.
The main attraction, of course, is the barbecue. The event will feature a sauce competition and People’s Choice awards.
Peak City Pig Fest is the only barbecue competition in the Triangle sponsored by the Kansas City Barbeque Society, according to organizers.
For the teams, there’s more at stake than bragging rights: Prize money totals more than $10,000. The winner has a chance to compete in the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational.
Judges from 10 states will pick the Pig Fest winner, Wilson said.
Last year’s champion, Killer B’s BBQ from Georgia, will be back this year to defend its title. After winning Pig Fest, Killer B’s went on to win the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour, said owner Jim Burg.
Burg, 52, said it’s worth it to make the drive from Evans, Ga., to Apex.
“I like the town,” he said. “I like the event. It’s very well organized.”
Burg said he also likes cooking in North Carolina, mostly because he has a track record of winning here. His sauce is a mix of sweet and sour, with a ketchup and vinegar base.
Sure, Pig Fest is about fun. But it’s also serious about barbecue.
“We’ve gotten a national reputation, especially among the cook teams,” Wilson said.
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