Pig on the Ridge festival soars

Ervin Brazell, Jr. and his dad, Ervin, Sr. sell kettle corn to Felicia Elliot and Charlie Ray.

RIDGEWAY – Pig on the Ridge lived up to the hype last weekend as it does almost every year, with great weather and a large, hungry crowd.

“Probably one of the best Pig on the Ridge events we’ve cooked! Looking forward to next year!” Tony Crout of Doko Smoke Barbecue in Blythewood posted to his Facebook page. Crout placed in the top 10 professional cookers.

Dwight Robinson of Ridgeway has cooked all 20 festivals. A popular pit master, he sold 40 butts before noon.

Some of the best professional and amateur pit masters in the state were attracted to the festival by more than $3,500 in cook-off prize money. Winnsboro’s Tyler Gregory of Raww Hawggin brought home the first place trophy and $500 for amateur cookers. Tutored by George King, the barbecue king of past Pig on the Ridge cook-offs, this was Gregory’s first time to enter the competition.

Gene Culbertson of Backwood Bar-B-Cue won top prize, $1,000 for the professional group.

On Friday ‘no pigs allowed’ night, cookers offered a smorgasbord of non-pork dishes. Winnsboro’s Keith Green of Big Boyz BBQ captured the trophy and $500 for selling the most of the dish his cookers prepared.

Chandler Cook took first place in hog calling for the 12 and under group. Haley Autry took second place. Kevin Lynch took first place for the 13 and up group, and Keeon Watkins took second place.

The owners of classic and antique cars and trucks showed off their wheels in the crowd-favorite cruise-by, and vendors lined the streets Friday night and Saturday selling jewelry, baked goods, bird feeders, outdoor solar chandeliers and more.

“We couldn’t be happier with our turnout, our cooks, our judges, our venders and other participants, our merchants, our volunteers and the great weather. I don’t know when we’ve enjoyed such pretty weather,” Pig on the Ridge steering committee member Rufus Jones said. “Had a little rain going into Friday night, but it cleared off and was perfect the rest of the weekend. I think everybody had a good time.”

That sentiment was not shared, however, by Town Councilwoman Angela Harrison who called for a boycott of the festival by posting an anonymous letter on her Facebook page 10 days prior to the festival and her own message just two days prior. Her call, however, had little affect on attendance.

In her post, Harrison said she could not attend the event because, as she claimed, the Pig on the Ridge committee promotes division in the town. She also accused the committee of having no stated purpose for its funds for the festival and accused the committee of not donating adequately to charity.

“The committee continually promotes the festival as one that gives back to the community,” Harrison said. “If you looked at the books, you would know that’s just hot air. They give a little to make it look good,” Harrison said, “then hoard the rest.””

“The town presents Pig on the Ridge as a town festival, organized by the steering committee,” Town Clerk Vivian Case said, “But it has always donated a large portion of the revenue from the festival to charity and to things the town needs. It buys lifesaving equipment for the town’s fire department and a lot of things like that to benefit the community. I don’t believe the festival revenue was ever intended to all be donated to charity.”

Case said the committee does not make expenditures or take in revenue.

“None of them actually ever touch any of the money. All the Pig on the Ridge money goes through the town government and always has,” Case said.

Case said the financials for Pig on the Ridge are open and available to the public – how the money is spent, how much is given to churches and other charitable causes in the community and how much is held by the town for future use on big ticket items and rained-out festivals.

“A Freedom of Information request is not required to look at this information,” Case said. “It’s available to anyone.”

“From the beginning, we have put some money back for a rainy day,” Steering Committee member Tom Connor said. “And sometimes we save up to buy expensive things for the community that the revenue from one festival will not provide. That money is in the town’s possession at all times. If our festival gets rained out, we are stuck with all the expenses but bring in no revenue. We try to plan so that we don’t miss a festival for any reason,” Connor said.