RW puts lipstick on the Pig for 20th time

RIDGEWAY – More than 800 Boston butts will be cooking, and over 60 S.C. Barbecue Association certified judges will be judging this weekend at the Annual Pig on the Ridge festival in Ridgeway…just as they have for the last 20 years.

Despite an announcement last month that the pig might not get over the stile this year after it was reported that some residents would boycott the festival as an expression of their dismay with the town government, volunteers from 14 churches and others in Ridgeway stepped forward last week to offer their services, assuring that the show would go on.

As a result, come dawn on Saturday morning, the aroma of roast pig will once again waft through the Cotton Yard as festival goers invade the tiny town to buy barbecue from some of the top pit masters in the Southeast, as well as shop for gifts and gadgets from 50 or so street vendors.

POR is still the largest of the S. C. Barbeque Association’s events.  And, even though the price of pork has gone up, POR tickets have not.

Organizers say it looks like it’s going to be as big as ever substantially adding to the $200,000 worth of benefits that POR has raised over the years.

“We originally started the barbeque festival to celebrate Ridgeway’s 200th anniversary,” Tom Connor, Ridgeway resident and one of the festival founders said.  “We wanted to provide an opportunity for people to come together to renew old relationships and make new ones – a family friendly festival.  We are especially proud of what the people in our community have made it possible for us to accomplish over the years,” Connors said.

“The financial income from the festival has helped our community groups buy toys for kids who might not otherwise have received any toys at Christmas,” Connor said. “And 20 years later, that is still what we are all about.”

“Our church partners have come together to raise money to directly support efforts to care for those who need their help,” Connor added.

In addition to the funds made available directly to each participating church, POR has made donations on behalf of the festival to the Ridgeway Fire Department for both uniforms and tools to help increase safety in our community. We have financially helped to supply fire extinguishers and smoke alarms to over 100 homes where needed. POR was the largest donor to the restoration of the Century House which created a historical landmark as the Town Hall, and it has made donations annually to support the Vacation Bible Schools in the Ridgeway area as well as helping fund the Fairfield County Arts Council’s Arts on the Ridge festivals.

POR funds were used to purchase and install the “Welcome to Ridgeway” signs, helped finance the restoration of the Arch at the Ridgeway Park and were used to purchase the ball field bleachers and picnic tables for the town park.

“On behalf of the Pig on the Ridge volunteers, we were able to provide an outreach donation to the American Red Cross for the Flood Relief Drive for survivors of the recent disaster in Columbia,” Connor said proudly.

The festival kicks off Friday evening, Nov. 2, at 6 p.m. with ‘No Pigs Allowed!” – a smorgasbord of entree samples made from ‘anything but’ pork that will excite any appetite. Pork is, of course, reserved for Saturday.

There will be children’s activities, craft sales and the evening will culminate with music and dancing on Dogwood Dr., with DJ Papa Charlie.

Beginning at 9 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 3, the barbecue judging begins and sales begin.

“You need to come early, though. It goes fast,” Connor said with a laugh.

Seventy-five or so of the town’s volunteers help expedite serving the hungry festival goers.

Most of the cookers, primarily from North and South Carolina, return every year. They typically offer three types of sauce – low country pepper vinegar sauce, the midlands mustard sauce and the Piedmont tomato base barbeque sauce.

Both days include children’s activities and lots of arts and crafts vendors.  Saturday’s festival is also enhanced with a classic/antique car display on Dogwood Drive, on-stage entertainment by the Geiger Elementary and other students, a hog-calling contest and a “cruise-by” at noon with an emergency/public safety salute and a parade of the classic/antique cars and bikes.

Awards are presented at 1 p.m.

Tom Connor, Rufus Jones, Donald Prioleau and Henry Dixon have kept the festival on track for many years.  Councilman Dan Martin has recently joined the Steering Committee.  This year’s children’s activities are being coordinated by Karen Siegling, the Classic Car display is organized by Minor Jones and the Media Relations and Best Booth judging by Patsy Palmer.

Come early. Even 800 Boston butts can be gone long before lunch time at Pig on the Ridge.