Pig on the Ridge survives up/down vote

POR Committee Seeks 75 Volunteers

RIDGEWAY – It appeared last week that the almost 20-year-old Ridgeway institution – Pig on the Ridge – was about to breathe its last. The festival survived an up or down vote by the hair of its chinny-chin-chin when the POR steering committee voted 3 – 1 on Oct. 11, for the 2018 Pig on the Ridge to go on. Donald Prioleau voted against.

In early October, Prioleau announced to the other three committee members – Tom Connor, Rufus Jones and Henry Dixon – that the 75-or-so longtime community volunteer servers, who worked under his supervision during the festival, had told him they were going to sit out the 2018 Pig on the Ridge because they were upset at the town government over the defunding of the town’s police department. That defunding resulted in the elimination of Police Chief Christopher Culp’s job. Ridgway’s policing was subsequently turned over to the Fairfield County Sheriff’s department. Prioleau said the volunteers were also disgruntled over how they perceived Prioleau, the town councilman with oversight of the police department, had been treated by council.

“They’re not talking Pig on the Ridge. They’re talking Town, starting with Pig on the Ridge. And there’s other things they’re going to bring,” Prioleau warned.

Prioleau said the standoff included not only the volunteer servers provided by the town’s churches for the festival, but other vital personnel as well – the car cruise organizer,  the man who assisted in meat delivery, the soft drink organizer, the railroad employee who handled the traditional train stop during the festival, the singing groups who entertained and others. The most crucial blow, however, was that the event’s most popular performer, the dj – Prioleau, himself – would not participate.

After Prioleau’s announcement, one committee member said he didn’t see how the event could go on without those volunteers.

“But to not have it this year would be the end of Pig on the Ridge,” he said.

A meeting was called on Oct. 11, for the committee to vote whether the festival would go. After calling that meeting to order, Chairman Connor had his say right off.

“I favor continuing,” Connor said. “Here’s why. As the originator and a founding member of this committee, I’ve seen the many positive impacts over the last 19 years because of the Pig on the Ridge festival – things such as enhanced community relations, donations to help with community needs, etc.,” he said.

Every year, the committee reached out to 21 churches who provide the 75 volunteers. Each church received $300 to purchase Christmas gifts for children who might not otherwise receive gifts.

“We are now faced with deciding the festival’s fate,” Connor continued, “because some key volunteers will not be available as in past years. It appears their decisions are to express their reaction to Town Council’s defunding of the Town Police Department,” he said.

“Pig on the Ridge, as a body, had no role and no voice in Council’s decision,” he added. “I’m sure the kids who have had a better Christmas in prior years because of Pig on the Ridge had no voice in this, and Pig on the Ridge does not wish such a voice,” Connor said.

“Is Pig on the Ridge guilty of something by affiliation [with town government]? And must it, therefore, suffer consequences for that affiliation?” he asked.

Connor clarified after the meeting that the town government handles all Pig on the Ridge funds and keeps those financial records but does not interfere with the event’s management.

Connor explained in the Oct. 11 meeting that many Pig on the Ridge providers have already ordered their supplies, more than 60 certified barbecue judges have been recruited and that significant sums of money have been spent.

“To discontinue at this late date throws them under the bus,” Connor said.

Connor reviewed the committee’s original goals: to conduct a family friendly event and to generate funds to donate back to the community. He said the event is designed to enhance a diverse community.

According to Connor, the festival has been the largest barbecue event in the state almost every year since 1999. He said the South Carolina BBQ Association recognizes Pig on the Ridge as a premier cook-off in the state.

“I hope whatever divides this community at this point can be mutually addressed and resolved by good-minded and community-focused citizens,” Connor concluded.

Connor then turned to Prioleau.

“Don?” Conner said.

Among his grievances over the defunding of the police department, Prioleau said he had been asked, at one point, by the mayor to resign from his oversight over the department.

“I declined,” Prioleau said, adding, also, that when he was asked [after Culp left] by the mayor to remove items from the police station for inventory, the lock had been changed.

“I have been blessed to grow up in a town where we – Rufus, his mother and father, Dan Ruff and his mother and father and people like the Thomases and others – got along like sisters and brothers. I don’t know where it’s going, but you got citizens in this town highly upset. They are telling me to resign. But I’m not,” Prioleau said.

“I love this little town, but I cannot participate in Pig on the Ridge. I have to listen to the people,” he continued, his comments turning poignant. “But I won’t do anything to try to stop it.”

“We have to go on,” Dixon said. “Pig on the Ridge has to continue. I hate this happened. I love Don. We grew up playing ball and everything else together. I understand where you’re coming from in some respects,” Dixon said to Prioleau. “I’ve beat myself up since last week over this thing. I haven’t slept six hours any night this week. I sleep two to three hours and wake up and watch TV because I can’t get it off my mind. I just think we’ve got to go on. Maybe by doing it we can heal some.”

“I can’t get in my mind how they would target something that is only loosely affiliated with something they have ill will toward,” Connor said. “There are good things about Pig on the Ridge that would be jeopardized.”

“I think we’ve said all we can say,” Jones said.

With that, the committee voted. Moments later they began in earnest re-working plans for next month’s Pig on the Ridge. At first, Prioleau was subdued but was soon in the thick of it, pointing out such things as who needs to be called for this and that, explaining the intricacies of having the train stop during the festivities and how to set up barricades.

“You’ve got to be careful about how the arrows are turned (on the barricades),” he cautioned.

The planning went on for another half hour with the focus on finding volunteers to fill the new vacancies.  Town Councilman Dan Martin who was in the audience volunteered for some of the jobs.

By the time the meeting was adjourned, the committee members were making inside jokes and laughing with abandon, probably much like when three of them were kids playing ball together.

The 19th annual Pig on the Ridge Festival will happen Friday and Saturday, Nov. 2 – 3. Watch for details in The Voice next week.

Anyone wishing to volunteer for the 2018 Pig on the Ridge, please email [email protected]


  1. Meganbundrick says

    Don’t stop Pig On The Ridge!! It’s something great for a little town where lots of ppl from all over come arnd to celebrate with us! Keep the tridition going & make it even better than before if need be, but don’t stop it. It’s what we all look forward too every year!!

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