APEX — The art of barbecue was on full display during the Peak City Pig Fest on Saturday.
In competition tents, teams of cooks made smoked pork, chicken, brisket and ribs – each with their own unique sauces, hoping to trap the meat’s flavors and deliver a moist and tender dish to the judges as the clock ticked.
Plenty of people lined up for a taste, willing to wait 15 minutes or more to buy sample tickets. Getting a chance to buy the competition barbecue was a first for this year’s Pig Fest, now in its second year.
Attendance exceeded organizers’ expectations. About 20,000 people showed up, filling the downtown streets and overflowing into stores and restaurants, according to Graham Wilson, a member of the Sunrise Rotary Club, which hosted the event.
The group expected about 15,000 people; about 12,000 attended last year.
“I think first of all people knew what to expect this year, and they knew about it,” Wilson said. “I think the second was the things we added, such as the beer garden and the children’s expanded play area and making the competition barbecue available for sale.”
Amy Behrendt of Fuquay-Varina and her 8-year-old daughter Sophie took advantage of the samples, hitting up a sauce-tasting display.
“Wow, that’s really good,” Behrendt said after trying a spoonful of sauce.
“It’s been fabulous,” she said of the festival. “We didn’t realize it was going to be this big. You get to try barbecue from folks that are not available in the area. So far everything has tasted different.”
Thirty-six teams vied for a chance at the grand-champion title and a spot at the American Royal Invitational in Kansas City. The grand champions also enter a lottery with about a dozen other state winners for a chance to represent North Carolina at the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue.
Killer B’s from Evans, Ga., was named this year’s grand champion and won the $3,000 prize and a shot at two national titles. Redneck Scientific of Clayton was second and won $1,500.
The people’s choice winner was BBQ PropAh, based in Raleigh.
Recycled Smoke BBQ in Fayetteville placed 17th overall in the team’s first Pig Fest attempt.
The team gets its name from its recycled smoker, which was made from an old propane tank. The handles are from an old firehouse, the trailer it sits on comes from a home damaged in the 2011 tornadoes, and the smoke stack came from a tractor trailer.
“It’s good for the environment – so’s my barbecue,” joked team member Kevin Winter.