Pigz in Z’Hills BBQ & Blues Fest draws record crowd

About 8,000 people attended the fifth annual Pigz in Z’Hills BBQ & Blues Fest, breaking another record for the event founded in 2010 by the Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce.

Besides attracting thousands to enjoy the barbecue and bands, the event on Jan. 17 at the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport, also lured 51 teams to compete to see who makes the best barbecue. Thirty-nine teams competed at the professional level, and there were 12 backyard barbecue teams, according to a news release issued by the chamber.

With limited room for dancing, Cindy Crismon of Zephyrhills, center, managed to strut her stuff in the crowd while jamming to the music of The Lauren Mitchell Band. This was her first Pigz In Z'Hills BBQ & Blues Fest. She is a winter resident from Lake Orion, Michigan. (Fred Bellet/Photo)

With limited room for dancing, Cindy Crismon of Zephyrhills, center, managed to strut her stuff in the crowd while jamming to the music of The Lauren Mitchell Band. This was her first Pigz In Z’Hills BBQ & Blues Fest. She is a winter resident from Lake Orion, Michigan.
(Fred Bellet/Photo)

Figures have not been tallied, but organizers estimate the event exceeded last year’s proceeds of $30,000.

The money raised benefits local youth and education programs and community services of the Chamber of Commerce.

A crew of more than 100 volunteers pitched in to make the event a success. Many worked the entire week, some arriving at dawn and staying past sunset, to get things ready for the festival and to take it down and clean up the grounds.

“Beyond even our own optimistic projections, Pigz in Z’Hills belongs to Zephyrhills,” Vonnie Mikkelsen, executive director of the chamber, said in an email.

“I’m thrilled by the positive outcome and so very happy for the volunteers, the participants and the community who came together to make it happen,” she said.

There were thousands who arrived by car, and at least 26 private aircraft took advantage of the airport’s “Fly-in” option.

Besides enjoying barbecued foods of many styles, spectators had the chance to listen to music performed by TC Carr & Bolts of Blue, The Lauren Mitchell Band, Doug Deming & The Jewel Tones and Cold Iron.

The event venue was larger this year, too, to make room for increased demand for kids’ activities, vendors, a classic car show, and aviation and military history displays.

The Pigz in Z’Hills BBQ competition is sanctioned by the Florida BBQ Association and is a qualifier for three prestigious championship contests: the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational in Lynchburg – considered the Superbowl of BBQ contests; American Royal World Series of BBQ in Kansas City – the world’s largest and oldest contest; and the Sonny’s Smokin’ Showdown Invitational – the FBA’s newest contest.

Wink’s Barbecue led by Wink Yelverton of Fort Walton Beach, FL won Grand Champion Professional Division qualifying his team for all three prestigious contests. Peter Golob of Extra Mile BBQ from Loveland, Ohio took Reserve Champion. In the Backyard Division, Bettern Store Bot, Dave Grantham of Bushnell won Grand Champion while Bamboo Warrior, head cook Curley McKenzie of Thonotosassa took Reserve Champion.

Pigz In Z’Hills BBQ & Blues benefits local youth and education programs and community services of the Chamber of Commerce.

For more information, visit ZephyrhillsChamber.org, call (813) 782-1913, or visit the chamber’s Facebook Page.

Published January 28, 2015

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