Cary News

Pig Fest barbecue competition puts national spotlight on Apex

Barbecue lovers take note: 30 teams from around the country have filled all available slots for June’s finger-licking-good barbecue competition.

The first Peak City Pig Fest – a national barbecue championship-qualifier – will host teams from as far as California and New York June 22-23 at the old tobacco warehouse in downtown Apex.

The teams will compete for more than $15,000 in prize money cooking chicken, ribs, beef brisket and pork.

Event organizer Graham Wilson, said the response from businesses and the public has exceeded his expectations for the Triangle’s only Kansas City Barbecue Society competition.

“It’s bigger than we imagined,” said Wilson, a member of the Apex Sunrise Rotary Club which is hosting the event.

He has more than 20 sponsors, with only five sponsorship slots available. About 10,000 people are expected to attend. Proceeds from the festival will benefit the Western Wake Crisis Ministry.

He credits the region and television shows for whetting people’s appetites for live barbecue competitions.

“I’ve watched Food Network, but seeing it on television is one thing,” Wilson said. “In our area, how many people do you know that have their own cooker? It’s North Carolina. It’s a part of life.”

He said many of the teams are from North Carolina and the local area. For them, the Pig Fest will be an opportunity for their friends and family to see them compete. That’s not often possible because of the cost of travel.

The Grand Champion winning team will qualify for the American Royal Invitational competition, sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society. They will also be entered into a drawing for the second national competition, the Jack Daniel’s World Championship.

The free Peak City Pig Fest, is more than just an opportunity to see the art of smoked meat cooking on display.

Samples from some of the competition’s BBQ teams will be available for tasting so the public can vote for the People’s Choice award. Winners for all cooking events will be announced 5 p.m. June 23.

Downtown business owner Olivia Scott said she’s looking forward to the competition and festival.

“Anything we do in the downtown area to bring exposure for our businesses is good,” said Scott, who co-owns Promotional Partners and is a member of Apex’s Downtown Business Association.

“You’re bringing a different group of people who wouldn’t necessarily come for Peak Fest or for the Christmas parade,” she said. “Let’s face it, when people think of barbecue they think of the South.”

While Scott’s custom-imprinted products business won’t get the direct dollars from visitors spending on food and retail, she said she will still benefit because of the exposure.

“People who come here for the first time discover that it’s a unique, fun, quaint place with so many things to do,” Scott said. “They really enjoy learning that we are so close. And, I love that my business is in downtown Apex.”