Festival serves up big flavor to small crowd
By Steve Huffman
Salisbury’s Festival of Barbecue had plenty of good eats Friday.
The aroma of barbecue wafted for blocks around the intersection of Depot and East Council streets where the grand event was held.
But what the festival lacked was much in the way of turnout. Shortly after noon Friday, only about a half-dozen people sat and ate. Only two vendors cooked barbecue on site. Five restaurants submitted barbecue to be included for judging.
“They expected a lot more,” admitted Lubin Prevatt, one of the judges who handed out a business card that described his profession as “Barbecue enthusiast.”
“Indeed, turnout, I say was on the low side.”
George Busby, the event’s coordinator, deflected questions about the festival’s success or lack thereof to participants, and most had good things to say about the event.
Even Prevatt, a Raleigh resident, said he had a good time and said the barbecue was among the best.
“The barbecue was good,” he said. “You can tell people they missed good barbecue by not coming.”
Rain showers may have cut into turnout, and Prevatt noted that many barbecue festivals take years to grow into respected affairs. He said Busby and others in Salisbury who helped organize the festival couldn’t be faulted.
“These events take time to build,” Prevatt said. “The effort he put in, you can’t short him on that.”
Smokey Lane Barbecue, one of the on-site participants, was judged to have the best barbecue. They were followed by Heavenly Hog Barbecue (another on-site participant) and Wink’s Barbecue.
The judging was done in a blind competition, meaning judges didn’t know if the barbecue they were judging was cooked on site or trucked in from a nearby restaurant. Other participants included Hendrix Barbecue, College Barbecue, Marlow’s Barbecue and Richard’s Barbecue.
The staff of Smokey Lane Barbecue consists of Keith and Dixie Lane and their daughter, Rena. The family operates KS Lane Screen Printing in Salisbury and Dixie said they got into preparing barbecue as a sidebar after Keith built grills for numerous caterers and other businesses.
“The crowd wasn’t what we’d hoped for, but I still think everyone had a good time,” Dixie said of Friday’s festival.
Her husband said he’d prepared enough pork shoulders to serve 1,000 diners. The number he wound up serving, he said, was, “considerably less,” though he noted the food wouldn’t go to waste, only taken home and frozen.
“The weather didn’t help, but we’ve got no complaints,” Keith said.
The Holy Pig Barbecue team is made up of Austin Palmer, Jason Ballard, Jeff Godkin, Hal Hester and David McAlexander, all members of Huntersville First Presbyterian Church. They said Friday marked their first festival outside of anything related directly to the church.
“Oh, man, we came in second?!” Godkin exclaimed when he heard the big news. “That’s pretty good out of the gate.”
Godkin and his sidekicks said they prepared 250 pounds of barbecue for Friday’s festival, and said they’d have prepared less if they’d known the turnout was going to be small. But they said that in some regards, the lower turnout helped them since it was their first stab at cooking for a festival.
“Did we have fun? Yeah,” Godkin said. “We’d love to have had a line of customers, but for us, it was still successful.”
Two of the judges were John Shelton Reed and his wife, Dale Volberg Reed, authors of several books, including, “Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue.”
Dale said she and her husband became experts about barbecue while writing the book.
“We’re not trained barbecue judges, but to write the book, we ate a lot,” she admitted.
Dale said the first restaurant selling Lexington-style barbecue was on Depot Street in downtown Salisbury. She said she and her husband were impressed with the barbecue they were served Friday.
“They cooked a lot of barbecue and we ate a lot of barbecue,” Dale said.
The Festival of Barbecue is part of the Cultural Arts Festival, which includes art, literature and music. The event continues in downtown Salisbury through Sunday.