10/31/04 — First 'Feast in East' whets appetite for more

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First 'Feast in East' whets appetite for more

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on October 31, 2004 2:05 AM

As the first "Feast in the East" neared its end Saturday night, organizers may not have been in Hog Heaven, but they were close.

"It's gone extremely well," said Steve Hicks, director of the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, as he and the crowd waited for Elvis impersonator Jimmy Horne to enter the building.

"We've learned an awful lot this year, which will help us make next year's even better," he added.

The Wayne County Fairgrounds hosted the two-day fledgling festival, which featured a BBQ cook-off, musical entertainment, arts and crafts, and a wok cooking demonstration.

The crowd was light both Friday night and Saturday morning, but got stronger throughout the day. No estimates were available, but 2,000 plates of barbecue pork were sold out in two hours at midday, while an additional 2,000 plates of chicken were nearly sold out by late afternoon. Proceeds benefits the Arts Council.

Goldsboro businessman Dave Quick talked with a state travel official who was impressed with the event. "He said we were probably five years ahead of other festivals as they've started out," Quick said.

Goldsboro Mayor Al King added, "Next year will be out of sight."

The Goldsboro Exchange Club won the BBQ Pork Cook-Off, besting 14 other competitors. Club members will now represent Wayne County in the N.C. State Pork Cook-Off Championship.

"This is the first time I've ever cooked competitively," said Franklin Lane, the group's leader. "We cooked a lot of pigs for fellowship, nursing homes, families and church, though."

The club used a mixtures of spices, a recipe that they were willing to share, right up until the minute they won.

"Now it's a secret," Lane said. "We want to win next year, too."

The other members of the winning team were Ray Hill, John Flowers, Ralph Lindsay and Scott Adams.

Patrick Ballantine, the Republican nominee for governor, was an early-morning visitor, hoping to work the crowd although it hadn't arrived.

Undeterred, Ballantine predicted victory in Tuesday's election. "We're going to win Wayne County and we're going to win North Carolina," he said, all smiles.

Nearby, his wife, Lisa, was keeping tab of their daughter, Wilker, who was ricocheting among the kids' areas.

"New York Gov. Pataki told me that he had been down 17 points in the polls versus Mario Cuomo on the Saturday before the election and ended up winning by 4 points," Ballantine said, adding, "We're going to make history and then we're going to change the future."

Nearby, Mayor King and Councilmen Jackie Warrick and Jimmy Bryan were waiting for the official verdict on the pig they "cooked." Actually, it seemed to be Jerry Williams and Tom Langley, two men who work for Councilman Chuck Allen, who seemed to be doing most of the work.

"I watched a lot," King conceded. "The key to success is you find good, qualified people and give them the support they need."

Williams has been cooking pigs for about 20 years, he said. The key seems to be real low temperatures over a very long time. "The meat comes out much more tender, much more moist, much better," he said.

The 15 crews had been up most, if not all, of the night, watching their cookers, barbecuing steaks, roasting sweet potatoes, hanging out and swapping stories, he said.

"It's not that type of back-stabbing competition," King added.

Jerry Snead, of Franklin County, was one of the six judges. He tends to do this type of work five or six times a year, he said.

The judges look for certain things, he said. What does the cooking area look like? Is it clean and well-kept or are cigarette butts and trash thrown around? Is the meat still white, burned or brown?

The judges will pick up the pig and look at the back side. Is the skin crispy, like it should be, or rubbery?, Snead said. Then, they'll try to pull the shoulder blades out. They'll put easily if the meat is well-cooked. They're also looking for red juices, a sign the meat shouldn't be eaten.

Sauces and spices are purely a matter of taste, he added. "We try to be subjective to everyone, start everyone off equal."

Snead had compliments for the "Feast in the East" organizers. "You're off to a good start here. You've got a lot of local cookers, which is nice."