06/28/09 — Kicking off the Fourth a little early

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Kicking off the Fourth a little early

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 28, 2009 2:00 AM

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Levi Nelson chomps down on some of the free watermelon given away by the Pikeville First Baptist Church Saturday during the town's 12th annual Independence Day Festival.

PIKEVILLE -- The judges were still savoring their samplings of home-cooked barbecue Saturday at noon as people were already lining up to purchase the tasty results of the town's first "Pig Cook-Off."

Not far away children slid, jumped and scampered on large colorful inflatable playsets that were set up for the 12th annual Independence Day Festival hosted by the Lions Club.

Some people sought the promise of the somewhat cooler temperatures offered by shade trees or tents as they watched entertainment or enjoyed hot dogs, cold drinks, watermelon or flavored ice.

Still others browsed the goods being offered by vendors or checked out the classic cars or antique farm equipment. Then there was the horseshoe tournament and a performance by the Sudan Temple Mini-Rigs.

The day got under way at 10 a.m. and ended about 12 hours later following the town-sponsored fireworks display.

"I just think it is wonderful family, community event," said Freida Hood of Goldsboro. "It is a gift to the community from the Lions Club. The Lions Club did a really nice job. It takes a lot of work to put on" something like this."

Also, she said, it is nice for people who may otherwise lack the money to do other things.

Some members of the Lions Club were at the park by 6 a.m. and the day didn't end until close to 10 p.m. following the fireworks display,

"I think we had a good turnout," said Cathie Cooks, club secretary, as she sat in the shade of the club's booth.

"We have had a good breeze and that really helped," she said. "Everything we do is for the community, everything we do goes back into the community to help others."

She thanked the town for providing benches, portable toilets and trash containers.

Mayor Herb Sieger, who is also a Lions Club member, and his wife, Dot, were honored as Mr. and Mrs. Pikeville. However, they were unable to attend because of health reasons.

Abigail Allen was named Little Miss Independence and Hunter Cotton and Little Mr. Independence. Both received banners and gifts cards donated by Pizza Inn.

"We don't know what we would do without our sponsors," Mrs. Hooks said.

Faith Boyette of Goldsboro possibly had the coolest job of the day -- sitting in the dunking booth for the Pikeville First Baptist Church. A dollar bought three balls and chance to dunk Faith.

The free watermelon at the church booth was popular, too.

"It (event) is just a chance to meet and talk with people," said the Rev. Jimmy Millard, pastor of the church.

Johnny Kearney and his son, John, of the Haulin' Hog Cooking Team of Goldsboro won first place in the pig-cooking contest. Four teams competed.

"Competition, that is the fun," John Kearney said.

He added that he had recently left his job with a Goldsboro car dealership because of the economy and slump in the automobile market. Haulin' Hog is his new catering business.

"Everybody is going to eat before they buy a new vehicle," he said.

Johnny Kearney, who has worked for R.N. Rouse Construction for 38 years, said he has been cooking for more than 30 years. The grills used Saturday were ones he built.

Mounted on a trailer, the red and chrome rig includes two grills, two pot burners, a cooler, a box for supplies and another for the gas tanks.

"I have cooked with charcoal, wood and gas and I can't tell any difference," he said.

"Gas is simpler," added his son.

Like other cooks at the event, the Kearneys had their secret recipe and they weren't sharing ingredients.

The father-son duo said they enjoy cooking and compete whenever they have the opportunity. They competed last weekend and already have several more upcoming events over the next several weeks.

Johnny Kearney said they put the pig on to cook around 1:30 Saturday morning. To help make the long night a bit more comfortable, the Kearneys were on a large RV.

Along with the comforts of home, it also supplies water and power, both of which can be in short supply at some cooking locations, Johnny Kearney said.

Asked how he thought they would do he said, "I guarantee at least fourth. It depends on the judges and however their taste buds are."

Just across from the Kearneys were Ronnie Jones of Pikeville, his wife, Angie, and daughter, Brittany.

Jones, owner of Jones Heating and Air, said he started his pig around 11 p.m. Friday and stayed up all night other than occasional brief naps in a nearby folding canvass chair.

Jones said he has been cooking more than 20 years and that he does some catering for local groups like the Masonic Lodge and fire department.

"Really, it is more of a hobby for me," he said.

His team won second place.

The winner of the cook-off received $300 and a trophy; second place received $200 and a trophy and third place $100 and a trophy.