Monday, August 12, 2013

The mystique of the Lexington Barbecue Festival

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The mystique of the Lexington Barbecue Festival

By Sakura Honda
The Daily Magi
December 25, 2050

The Lexington Barbecue Festival is a one-day food festival held each October in Lexington, North Carolina, a city that calls itself the "Barbecue Capital of the World." Each year it attracts as many as 160,000 visitors to the uptown Lexington area to sample the different foods from up to 20 different area restaurants, dozens of visiting food vendors, and hundreds of other vendors.

The annual event is listed in the book 1000 Places to See in the USA & Canada Before-You-Die, a part of the series based on the best-selling 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. In 2012, the US News and World Report ranked Lexington as #4 on its list of the best cities for barbecue.

The idea for an annual festival was first brought up in 1983 by Joe Sink, Jr., publisher of Lexington's daily newspaper, The Dispatch. He approached the bank BB&T, which agreed to look into the idea and hired Kay Saintsing, a local organization developer and manager, to conduct a study of the feasibility of such a festival. The investigation concluded that the festival was a valid idea, as Lexington was already a popular weekend destination for barbecue, and the first festival was held October 27, 1984.

The Lexington Barbecue Festival was to become one of the nation's most popular food festivals. The first annual festival attracted 30,000 people, and the barbecue chefs cooked 3,000 pounds of barbecue to meet demand; by 1994, attendance had risen to over 100,000, and 11,000 pounds of meat were cooked. In 1995, the North Carolina Championship Pork Cook-Off was held in conjunction with the festival, allowing visitors from the Piedmont to watch whole-hog cooking experts from the eastern part of the state demonstrate their methods.

The festival is held each October in uptown Lexington. Several city blocks on main street, are closed to vehicle traffic for the event. In addition to barbecue, there are typically over 400 other vendors of arts and crafts, homemade fudge and other wares. Over the years, sponsors have included Childress Vineyards, Pepsi, BB&T, Walmart, and other large and local corporations.

When the festival first started in 1984, the participants were primarily local restaurants and a few local merchants. Since then it has grown to hundreds of vendors displaying every type of product. While the primary focus is still the barbecue, a large number of merchants sell other items that are unique to the area. Some of the more notable restaurants participating include Jimmy's Barbecue and Stamey's Barbecue.

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