What could be better on a crisp fall day but pickles, barbecue, craft beer and bluegrass music?
That’s exactly what the first-ever Pickles, Pigs and Swigs Festival will feature. The new event will take place 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 20 in downtown Mount Olive.
The festival came about when a group of Mount Olive residents got together and started brainstorming what they could do to show others the things they love about their town and the things that represent eastern North Carolina.
“And it just made sense — a Pickles, Pigs and Swigs Festival,” said Lynn Williams, committee member.
The Mount Olive Chamber of Commerce is officially coordinating the festival.
And not only will it be fun, Williams said, but it is for a good cause, too.
“Most of the proceeds from this event are going to benefit the Mount Olive Community Development Corp.,” she said. “A collective group of people in Mount Olive has always wanted to do a fall event because the weather’s really nice and it’s a good time and it gives a good balance to the festival. And we wanted to do something to benefit the Mount Olive Community Development Corp. because we hoped at some point, sooner or later, to put together a master plan for downtown and ways that we can improve it.
“This is one way. It creates an event for Mount Olive. It draws people to downtown, then the proceeds would help advance community development.”
The pickles part of the festival will be employees of Mt. Olive Pickle Co. giving away free pickle samples, said Williams, who is the public relations manager for the company.
“We’ll have an area set up where people can come by and try some of our pickles. No jars of pickles will be sold. We don’t want people walking downtown with a lot of glass jars.”
The pigs part of the festival will be a whole-hog barbecue competition, which will be a North Carolina Pork Council-sanctioned event.
“We want to have up to 20 teams,” Williams said. “Anybody that wants to participate can contact us. We have online registration and payment. Our information is also on the North Carolina Pork Council website.”
Cooks can start setting up at 3 p.m. Nov. 19 in the town hall parking lot, Williams said. Spectators are welcome to stop by and watch the cooking competition, which will start at 8 p.m. that night and continue throughout the night. Winners will be announced around midday Saturday, Nov. 20.
Judges for the barbecue contest will be North Carolina Pork Council-sanctioned judges.
Williams said it’s a pork council rule that the pork not be seasoned by the cooks.
“Once the competition is over, we’ll collect all the pork that they’ve cooked and we add the seasoning to it,” Williams said.
Starting at 11 a.m. Saturday, barbecue plates of fresh-cooked pork, coleslaw, potatoes and hush puppies will be available to those attending the festival at $10 a plate.
Festival organizers are looking for teams to compete in the whole-hog barbecue competition. Those interested in participating should go to https://www.eventeny.com/events/picklespigsswigs-1554/ to register and pay online.
“Whether you’ve been in a ton of competitions or this will be your first one, folks are welcome to participate,” Williams said.
The swigs part of the festival will be local R&R Brewing Co. and a couple of other local breweries selling craft beers downtown that Saturday.
“We’ll have that area set up by the stage so people can sit out and enjoy it,” Williams said. “Local brews will be for sale throughout the day. You will have to have ID to buy it.”
Throughout the day, there will also be live bluegrass music on a stage that will be set up in the Southern Bank park area downtown on Center Street.
The festival will also feature an antique tractor show and some local vendors. The Pickle Train will offer rides throughout the day.
There is no admission fee for the festival.
Williams said parking downtown should not be a problem for festival goers.
“I think we’re planning for 1,500 people,” she said. “We think it’s going to be a lot of fun. Like any other festival, the weather will play a big role.
“That weekend is also the University of Mount Olive’s homecoming weekend. So we see some opportunities to supplement each other in terms of activities and events. We think that will help with our participation, too.”
Williams hopes those attending will have a good time and also gain an appreciation for the same kinds of things that Mount Olive residents love about their town. And she wants them to have fun.
“Eastern North Carolina barbecue, craft beer, pickles and bluegrass, it’s shaping up to be a really fun and unique kind of day,” she said.
The Pickles, Pigs and Swigs Festival will be an annual event in Mount Olive.