Saturday, September 12, 2015

It's Still a Favorite

The Shindig began in 2006.
Fiddle-N-Pig Shindig in Fort Mill, SC, is becoming an annual destination, and I returned for the third consecutive year. From a judge’s perspective, this year’s event seemed like the ones in the past – efficiently run with great barbecue. However, the space for the cooking teams and the music performers was significantly improved at Anne Springs Close Greenway where the event is held. 

Bluegrass musicians performed on
the stage of thee new amphitheater.
Rather than being tightly compacted in a lawn next to the historic Dairy Barn, the cooking teams had more roomy space that seemed almost twice as large as before and took advantage of an additional area made available by relocating the amphitheater and the stage for musicians. The amphitheater was redesigned to take advantage of a nearby natural slope shaded by huge trees. A newly constructed wooden stage was much more attractive than the flatbed trailer that had been used.

People's choice contest was held indoors.
Although stormy weather was threatening for most of the day, it didn’t dissuade a crowd of bluegrass music and barbecue lovers from attending. The people’s choice competition among the cooking teams was again a main event, although this year it was moved inside the Daily Barn to avoid any potential rain (which never came).

Hands of guests are stamped with a pig design as proof of paid admission.

Walking a Swine Line won the
people's choice award.
The judges again assembled on the top floor of the historic Dairy Barn, which provides a scenic setting and ample spacing. With a total purse of $10,200 in prize money, Fiddle-N-Pig attracted 29 cooking teams. A group of 36 judges plus a complement of 6 table captains were needed to score the entries. At the table where I was a judge, the beef brisket and chicken were uniformly excellent; the pork and ribs had much more variability that was also reflected in their scores.

The Backwoods BBQ team won
the grand champion prize.
Smoke billows out of the Backwoods BBQ cooker.

MacDonald welcomes judges as
the Reids watch.
The event was efficiently run because the organizer again was Mina McLean MacDonald. She has planned the Fiddle-N-Pig competitions sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society. KCBS reps again this year were Doug and Susan Reid, who are not only experienced but superior in their skills for managing competitions.

Returning to Fiddle-N-Pig gave me the opportunity to explore more small towns nearby, this time over the border in North Carolina –- Kings Mountain, Pineville, and Waxhaw. In addition, because Shelby is also close, I stopped at the famous Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge for lunch and thoroughly enjoyed the food prepared by such a historic barbecue restaurant. Being there calibrated my taste buds to be ready to judge at the Shindig.

The Hog Wild team prepares its entries.

Fiddle-N-Pig is a great event in a scenic park-like setting. If I’m lucky, I’ll return again.

The historic Dairy Barn, built in 1947, is where the judges meet.

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