04/08/12 — Pickers ready for Pig in the Park

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Pickers ready for Pig in the Park

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on April 8, 2012 1:50 AM

The best in barbecue will square off again Saturday at Waynesborough Park during Pig in the Park, the annual competition that benefits the Boys and Girls Club of Wayne County.

The main event begins at 9 a.m., although cooks will be prepping their pork creations all night in advance of the judging at 10:30 a.m. Plates will be served at noon, and tickets will be sold on site, although organizers are encouraging hungry visitors to buy their $5 tickets in advance.

As the competitors come together this year, there will of course be some good-natured ribbing, even if the focus of the contest is chopped pork, especially in the case of two teams that last year competed together and took first place.

Although Haulin' Hog Catering finished high on the hog at the last Pig in the Park, the father-son duo decided to split up for this year's contest pitting the two pig-cookers against one another as they head to the park this Saturday.

While the two have sworn to be cordial during this year's swine-off -- they are hoping to be camping and cooking next door to one another, and it's clear both have something to prove.

"My intention is to go out there and win again," John Kearney said. "I'm going to give it my best shot."

Among the 25 cooks, Kearney and his dad certainly have the pork pedigree to their advantage. They have been cooking for years, competing in cooking competitions across the Carolinas and Virginia.

That experience has taught the younger Kearney that when it comes to North Carolina Pork Council competition -- the division the two are competing in -- it's about much more than the taste.

"You want it not too dark or light. They'll be checking for moisture. The way you control that is to cook it slow," he said. "When the judges come up there, they're going to look at that pig. First thing they'll do is pull it half over and look for soft spots. Then they'll flip it over and look again. When they get done with the pig, it looks like a tornado hit it."

The Backyard division will pit competitors against each other in blind taste tests so even barbecue beginners can have a shot at placing.

Aiming for taste is easy, Kearney said.

"Anybody can do it and it's all in the sauce. If you've got a good sauce, people are going to remember it," he said.

The elder Kearney, Johnny, is counting on his sauce to set him apart from his son's barbecue. He will be trying a homemade sauce he has perfected over the years that originally came from his father-in-law. John will be using the tried-and-true vinegar-based sauce with which he and his father have won countless other contests.

Another family recipe will be center stage in the Backyard division where Derek and Cyndi Siers of Pikeville are hoping Mrs. Siers' father's recipe can propel their pork to victory in their first-ever cooking competition.

The husband and wife team run a catering business and decided it was time they see how they stacked up against the state's greats.

"We've never even been to it, so we thought we would try it out this year," Mrs. Siers said.

She is hoping the sauce will get their team, Backyard Grillers, a spot in the top three.

"We'll be out there early Friday afternoon getting set up," she said. "I'll be there to make it look good."

As far as appearance is concerned, however, she will be up against some stiff competition, especially with Goldsboro Milling's Tommy Pate taking over his company's team.

The Belt-Bustin' Barbecue will of course be Pate's focus, but he also said he is aiming to bring the hog farm to Waynesborough Park through decoration, including the possibility of having a live feeder pig on site. There will also be an information table to educate children and others on hog farming.

For Pate, it's not just about cooking and competing -- it's a chance to promote what Goldsboro Milling prides itself on.

"I'd like to win and bring something back to the company," he said. "But I'm trying as hard as I can promoting the company, promoting the hog industry -- that's my goal."

But that's not to say he won't be slinging some finely sauced chopped pork come Saturday. Pate said he helps out with the Seven Springs Fire Department barbecue events, so he has the benefit of their top-secret sauce, which has been prepared in secret by a woman for years.

She refuses to reveal any of the ingredients outside of pepper and vinegar.

"She won't tell us what's in the sauce, but when she's dead and gone that recipe is willed to the fire department," he said. "Every pig I've cooked over the past 15 years I've used that sauce on it."

Another newcomer to the competition, but still a veteran in the game, is Martin Johnson who is taking the lead for the Goldsboro Parks and Recreation team.

Johnson has competed in cooking contests before, but Parks and Recreation Director Scott Barnard said it has been a few years so he is eager to get back behind the cooker.

"Martin has barbecue competition experience, and I'm just hanging out. I'm the sampler, and he's our expert," Barnard said.

The planning for the competition was easy, he said, since Johnson wasn't particularly shy about the way the cooking should go.

"He said, 'My grill. My sauce.' I said, 'OK, no problem,'" Barnard recalled.

But Barnard won't just be sitting around stuffing his face with pork -- he said the team is viewing the event as another marketing opportunity to show the area what's new in their department.

"This is just kind of another one of our efforts to change the perception of Parks and Recreation," he said.

There will be a series of squealing contests inspired by the Spivey's Corner "Hollerin' Contest" for children less than 12 years old as well as pig launching using a custom-made catapult. The pigs aren't real, but the prizes will be as participants compete in both distance and accuracy contests. There will also be portable disc golf baskets and a chipping contest with the department's golf pro.

The competition will pit 10 Backyard division teams against one another for oinking rights, while the NCPC division will feature 15 barbecues competing for the top prize.

To purchase tickets for the barbecue plates in advance, call Jo Heidenreich at 735-2358 or contact her via email at jheidenreichbgcwayne@nc.rr.com.