Second in a series
The annual Court Square Barbecue Cook-Off is not only a way to showcase Sampson County’s rich agricultural history, especially its roots in the pork industry, but it has also provided a means to promote good-natured competition, fellowship and charitable outreach.
This year will mark the 19th edition of the annual Barbecue Cook-Off, held in conjunction with the city of Clinton’s annual Court Square Street Fair, which is in its 26th year. While the bulk of the street fair festivities will be held Saturday, Oct. 13, it will kick off the night before, Friday, Oct. 12, when newly-offered live music rings in the downtown event and numerous participants roll their cookers out to start on their hogs.
The all-night cooking is nothing new to the fair, which closes streets down around the court square beginning Friday evening and continuing until late Saturday afternoon. The event is expected to be “bigger and better” this year,” bolstered by local partnerships that have brought new additions such as a 5k Downtown Dash, a Volksmarch and Friday’s live music to the long-running event that has always had barbecue, baked goods, antique cars, handmade arts and crafts and children’s rides and games at its core.
The barbecue, a homegrown staple in Sampson County, has long proven a hallmark of the street fair and will continue to be, organizers said.
The 19th annual Barbecue Cook-Off is being made possible by sponsors, Murphy-Brown, Prestage, Smithfield, Hog Slat and Williamson Gas. Mary Rose, planning director for Clinton-Sampson Planning Department, said the contest promises to be extremely competitive this year, as it is every year.
“These valuable partnerships have enabled us to continue to expand an event which is known across North Carolina as one of the most enjoyable and friendly competitions in the state,” said Rose. “We are proud of our rich agricultural heritage and the companies which provide opportunities such as this for our citizens to enjoy.”
All corporate teams will be donating proceeds from the sale of their barbecue to a non-profit or charity of their choice. There will be 20 competitors this year, and all entries have been received, Rose noted.
“Barbecue contestants will be allowed to begin cooking any time after 9 p.m. on the evening of Friday, Oct. 12, in the designated cooking areas for the contest. All pigs will be required to be cooked on-site,” said Betty Holland, administrative assistant for the Clinton-Sampson Planning Department.
Holland encouraged fair attendees to take full advantage of the event’s expansion into a two-day affair. “Please come downtown Friday evening to enjoy live local music and express your support to the barbecue teams as they set up for the event,” she urged.
Judging will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, and barbecue will be allowed to be sold to the public by the contestants after each pig is judged. Last year’s individual competition winner, Mr. James Wilder of Dudley, NC will be competing in the state cook-off Oct. 26 and 27 in Washington, N.C.
Barbecue has long been a big part of the annual city fair, but the baked goods competition similarly continues to grow.
This year will mark the 7th Court Square Bake-Off, which Rose said is “a popular event for those who have a sweet tooth.” Categories include, breads, cakes, pies/cobblers and candy/brownies/cookies. All proceeds from the sale of those items is being used to assist in funding the local “Christmas in the City” event to be held Thursday, Nov. 29.
Whether it is barbecue or baked goods, the contests will prove competitive to participants, beneficial to the city and various charities and, perhaps most important to those who come out for the festivities, appetizing for everyone. There will be no shortage of barbecue sandwiches to be had at the annual event.
“The competition among our individual contestants has always been strong, but good-hearted,” Rose said, “and you can be sure there will be plenty of barbecue for tasting during these two competitions.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.