Pig on the Ridge Marks 16 Years in Hog Heaven

 

Hog Wild –
Pig on the Ridge organizers Donald Prioleau, Tom Connor, Henry Dixon and Rufus Jones show off the new monument to Ridgeway’s annual festival, which will happen again this weekend. For a complete schedule of events, see their ad on page 20. (Photo/Barbara Ball)

RIDGEWAY – It was in May of 1999 that Tom Connor of Ridgeway was visiting family in Memphis, Tenn. and attended the country’s largest barbecue festival. To his surprise, he met up with an old friend from Ridgeway, J.W. Joye, who was cooking at the festival. Impressed with the event, Connor asked Joye if he would help arrange a barbecue festival in Ridgeway for the town’s 200th anniversary that fall. Joye agreed and the event was a success – so much so that they decided to do it again the next year.

Joye is no longer helping with the event (he’s too busy cooking and judging barbecue at festivals around the country), but Connor and three other Ridgeway friends, Rufus Jones, Donald Prioleau and Henry Dixon, have carried on. They called the Ridgeway event Pig on the Ridge, and this year is its 16th anniversary. For eight out of the last nine years, it has been the largest barbecue cook-off in South Carolina.

But Pig on the Ridge is more than great barbecue. It has become the Town’s main charitable event, raising more than $145,000 for community endeavors, including $76,000 for children in the Ridgeway community who might not otherwise receive Christmas gifts. The funds have been used to restore the Century House, purchase equipment for the Town’s volunteer fire department, provide welcome signs for the Town, provide smoke alarms in the homes of the elderly and disabled, and much more.

“A festival like this involves lots of partnering,” Connor told The Voice. “We depend on the churches and Geiger Elementary School to identify children whose families need a little help at Christmas time.”

While the four organizers plan the event, Connor said it is the 200 or so community volunteers who make the event happen.

“Don Prioleau recruits volunteers to assist the cook teams. They distribute 3.5 tons of Boston Butts and whole hogs to the cook teams in less than an hour. We have Fanny Ford and many others who help with the ticket booths,” Connor said. “And that’s serious work; lots of hard work. But they are always there to do it.”

The most recent recipient of Pig on the Ridge funds is a granite monument to the festival that has been set between the Old Town Hall Restaurant and the World’s Smallest Police Station.

On Monday, cooking rigs were already setting up and volunteers were busy getting equipment ready for the weekend when festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. on Friday with the traditional “No Pig Allowed” street party. On that evening, the cook teams will be dishing out everything but barbecue. That can only be served on Saturday when judging begins at 9:30 a.m. But don’t wait too late. Regulars say the barbecue goes fast and if you arrive at 11 a.m. for lunch, you might be out of luck.

But even being late has a silver lining. The Old Town Restaurant, under new management, will open its doors for lunch and will be open in the evening as well.

For a small-town, family fun weekend, don’t miss Pig on the Ridge. There will be live music, rides for the kids, arts and crafts vendors, a hog-calling contest at 12:30, a cruise-by at 1 p.m. and the festival will wrap up with the awards ceremony at 2 p.m.

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