Holy Smoke! Blues, Barbecue in Zephyrhills

The holidays are associated with great family, great friends and great food. In fact, sometimes the food is the best part: Turkey, ham, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and other dishes all make a welcomed appearance.

It’s all great, but something is missing. Where are the ribs? The chicken? The pulled pork? The sweet, tangy sauce that gets on your fingers? The baked beans and corn on the cob? The smoke from the grill that makes your mouth water?

Where’s the barbecue?

There will be plenty of vendors, but people will still line up for their favorites. (File Photo)

There will be plenty of vendors, but people will still line up for their favorites.
(File Photo)

You probably didn’t find it at the holiday dinner table, but you can make up for lost time on Jan. 17. That’s when the Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce will host the Fifth Annual Pigz in Z’Hills BBQ & Blues Fest at the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport, 39450 South Ave.

As the name implies, it’s a barbecue-themed event. Vendors offering a variety of meats and platters will be on hand, offering their own take on chicken, pork and other traditional courses. It’s all barbecue, but each one is a little different. The sauces, spices and sides make each one unique and worth trying. Whatever type of barbecue you prefer, you’re likely to find someone serving it hot.

They’re competing for prizes, too. Thousands of dollars’ worth. This is the Florida State Championship sanctioned by the Florida BBQ Association. Did you even know there was a Florida BBQ Association? I didn’t, but I think I want to join it. Maybe they need taste-testers.

Anyway, the competitors are putting their best foot forward (or rib forward, I suppose) to create a variety of great tastes. You might not be an official judge, but you can pick your own winners from the competing vendors.

Now, you might have noticed that there’s more than barbecue happening in the name. It’s a blues fest as well, and music is a big part of the event. Cold Iron, Doug Deming & the Jewel Tones, The Lauren Mitchell Band and TC Carr & Bolts of Blue will all be performing. Just bring a lawn chair (no coolers or pets), find a nice spot and enjoy the show.

Rows of business vendors will be there, too, providing information about different services and offering some giveaways as well. If you’re the kind of person who goes through a lot of pens, I definitely recommend visiting this area. I can say from experience that this is a good way replenish your supply and support some local businesses at the same time. I know you’re not going there for pens, but this is “On the Cheap,” after all.

But wait; there’s more. Aircraft displays, a car and motorcycle show and the WWII Museum of Military History all add to the entertainment. There’s even a special area for children. There’s so much to do, I’m willing to make a pretty bold claim: You could be a vegetarian and still have a good time here. Even without the food there’s hours of fun and music to enjoy.

And, of course, it’s cheap. Admission to Pigs in Z’Hills is free. It costs $10 to park, but if you bring friends or family in one car, it’s a good deal. You do have to pay for food, beer and other drinks, of course. So your appetite might make this cheap event not so cheap. But I can’t advise you to skip the food, because it’s really good. So maybe eat breakfast first, so you can sample the best of the barbecue without eating your way around the airport. And you might be tempted. Like I said, the food is really good.

Pigs in Z’Hills runs from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. For more information, call (813) 782-1913 or visit ZephyrhillsChamber.org.

Schedule of events:
10 a.m. Pigz in Z’Hills opens (free admission, $10 to park)
10:30 a.m. Cold Iron performs
12:15 p.m. Jewel Tones performs
2 p.m. Lauren Mitchell Band performs
3:45 p.m. TC Carr and Bolts of Blue performs
6 p.m. event endsTwo Kidz Zones, concession vendors, business expo and military aircraft displays will be open throughout the day.

Published January 14, 2015

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