Smithfield’s Ham & Yam Festival is a highlight of the Johnston county festival circuit, and this year promises to be no different.
The festival, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 6, will occupy several blocks downtown, feature craft and food vendors from across the county and state.
Craft and commercial vendors will line the streets, and food vendors will offer fair foods and other items. Hungry and adventurous festival-goers can indulge in sweet and savory forms of the sweet potato: funnel cakes, cheesecake, smoothies, fries and chips.
True sweet potato lovers can enter a pie-eating contest for the chance to win $100. The contest will begin at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on the Second Street Stage. The only caveat: No hands allowed.
Fred Dees of the Smithfield Kiwanis Club said his group will be filling fresh-baked biscuits with country ham as it had done fore more than 25 years.
“We cook the ham on site, so the smell of the ham cooking will drift all over the festival grounds,” Dees said.
The festival began in 1985 as a challenge from Johnston County ham producers to the ham producers of Smithfield, Va. Johnston County is also the nation’s No. 1 producer of sweet potatoes, so pairing ham and yam was a clear choice.
The festival has grown over the years, adding a barbecue cook-off to celebrate another pride of Johnston County and Smithfield.
Teams from across the state will compete in the annual 4-H Youth Livestock Barbecue Cook Off, with cash prizes and trophies for first, second and third place in the culinary and showmanship categories. Johnston 4 will then sell barbecue sandwiches and plates.
Country singer James Wesley will headline the free concert at 8 p.m. He opened for Taylor Swift’s Speak Now Tour. Other entertainment will be on three stages throughout the day.
A rubber duck race, face painting, inflatables, carnival rides, pig races, a petting zoo and the “What’s That Yam Thing?” contest are also on the menu.
“We’ve been placing more emphasis on hams and yams over the last few years,” said Sarah Edwards, executive director of the Downtown Smithfield Development Corp., the festival’s organizer. “There aren’t really any big, visible changes this year.”
What’s That Yam Thing?
The “What’s That Yam Thing?” contest encourages children to play with their food, turning sweet potatoes into works of art.
“The children who participate in the ‘What’s That Yam Thing?’ contest continue to raise the bar each year,” Edwards said. “They’ve come up with some very creative and original ideas for their yams.”
The festival will accept entries from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday and from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the corner of Second and Johnston streets. The winners will be announced at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Entry forms are available in the 4-H Office at the Johnston County Agricultural Building, 2736 N.C. 210, Smithfield. They are available also at the following schools: West Smithfield Elementary, South Smithfield Elementary, Wilson’s Mills Elementary and Neuse Charter School. For contest rules or more information, go to www.hamandyam.com/whats-that-yam-thing-contest.
Rubber duck race
The rubber duck race is an annual invasion of 1,000 rubber ducks sporting pig masks. Staged by the Grifols Relay for Life team, the race will take on the Neuse River at the Smithfield Town Common.
Ducks will enter the river at the boat ramp at 6 p.m., and the winner will be the first duck to cross the finish line behind the Neuse River amphitheater. The prizes are $500 for first place, $200 for second and $100 for third.
The cost to enter a duck in the race is $5. Purchase yours at the Relay for Life booth at the festival. Proceeds will go to cancer research.
Run, walk for health
The fifth annual Johnston Health Champions 5K is a timed run and walk for all ages and fitness levels. It begins at 9 a.m., and dogs are welcome at the run on leashes.
The entry fee for the run/walk is $35, or $45 if a runner wants to bring a furry friend. The registration fee includes a T-shirt, snacks, water and a doggie bandana.
The 5K will begin and end in front of Johnston Health, 509 N. Bright Leaf Blvd. A free “Kids Dash for Health” will begin at 10 a.m.
Proceeds from the races will benefit two causes: the Angel Fund, which supports cancer patients with financial hardship, and the Healthy Kids Fund, which addresses childhood obesity through health and fitness scholarships.
Also on tap
Craft vendors will offer garden flags, handbags, kitchen tools and handmade jewelry. And the Knights of Columbus will hold a blood drive.
Abbie Bennett: 919-553-7234, Ext. 101; @AbbieRBennet
Here’s the schedule for live entertainment on Saturday.
The R.I.O.T. Band – 9-9:45 a.m.
Temple Youth Band – 10-10:45 a.m.
Ragged Company – 10-11:30 a.m.
Land O’Glory – 10-11:30 a.m.
Temple Choir – 11-11:45 a.m.
Artistry in Motion –11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Justin Kyle Band –noon-1:30 p.m.
CRC Band – noon-12:45 p.m.
One 80 – 12:30-2:30 p.m.
Bridge to Hope Worship – 1-1:30 p.m.
The Awakening Church Praise Band – 1:45-2:30 p.m.
Waking April – 2-3:30 p.m.
The Gathering – 2:45-3:30 p.m.
Bruce Naegelen – 3-5 p.m.
Men with Faces – 3:45-4:30 p.m.
Ordinary Gentlemen – 4:45-6 p.m.
Louis Waymore – 7-7:45 p.m.
James Wesley – 8-9:30 p.m.