Pork and sweet potatoes will fill downtown Smithfield this Saturday during the 31st annual Ham & Yam Festival.
The day will feature live music on three stages, with this year’s headliner, The Dave Matthews Tribute Band, taking the Neuse River Amphitheater stage at 8 p.m. Unlike in previous years, no festivities are planned for Friday.
Returning for 2015 is the emphasis on the event’s namesake foods, introduced with last year’s festival, which added the requirement that all food vendors serve at least one item made with ham or yams.
That themed cuisine helps differentiate Smithfield’s annual event from the street fairs that take place in other towns, said Sarah Edwards, head of the Downtown Smithfield Development Corp.
“You can’t go anywhere else and get a yam smoothie or sweet potato funnel cake, and a lot of festivals probably aren’t going to have ham tortas and country ham biscuits,” she said. “That’s the thing that makes us different, and I think really is the hook to draw people in.”
The annual 4-H barbecue cook-off will be back this year, as will Circle C Farms’ Hogway Speedway Racing Pigs and the rubber-duck races down the Neuse River.
A pie-eating contest, with sweet potatoes of course, will take place at 2:30 p.m. on the Second Street stage, where 10 entrants will compete to eat an entire pie without using their hands. The fastest eater will win $100.
In addition to the fun and food at Ham & Yam, Edwards said many charitable groups use the event to reach out to the public.
“It truly is the platform for community groups to both raise money for their organizations and also spread the word to the community about what they’re doing,” she said.
Those looking to burn a few calories may enter the Johnston Health Champions 5K, which starts at 9 a.m. in front of the hospital at 509 N. Bright Leaf Blvd. The race benefits the Johnston Health Angel Fund, which assists cancer patients with expenses such as wigs, prosthetics and transportation to treatment. Children may take part in the free Kids Dash for Health at 10 a.m.
The American Red Cross will hold a blood drive throughout the day.
For people who cannot wait until Saturday to start celebrating, the Kiwanis Club of Smithfield will serve its annual Ham & Yam Supper from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Centenary United Methodist Church, 140 E. Market St. Tickets cost $7, and the menu includes Stevens Sausage country ham, yams, cabbage and cornbread.
For children’s entertainment, the festival will feature face painting, water fights, pony rides and a number of inflatable attractions, including bounce houses and slides.
Kids ages 12 and younger may compete for cash prizes in the “What’s that Yam Thing?” contest. The idea is to craft a sweet potato into a person, animal or thing. Past entries have included Taylor Swift, a set of angry birds and a star-spangled Uncle Yam. Submissions must be submitted between 3 and 6 p.m. Friday or 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the contest tent at the corner of Second and Johnson streets. Adults may enter just for fun.
Live music will include performances by Jonathan Parker & the Bel-Airs, Taylor Leopold, Al Batten & the Bluegrass Reunion, Kaylin Roberson, Eric Strickland & the B-Sides, 180 Years, Artistry in Motion and the Justin Kyle Band.
For a complete schedule of events, visit HamAndYam.com
Ham & Yam Festival
When: Saturday, street vendors from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., music from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Where: downtown Smithfield.
Info: HamAndYam.com or 919-934-0887.