Thousands turn out for barbecue and blues

The results are in, and the eighth annual Pigz in Z’Hills BBQ & Blues Festival drew a crowd of more than 12,000, according to festival organizers.

The event, held Jan. 20, at the festival venue at Zephyrhills Municipal Airport, featured blues music, award-winning barbecue, and vendors offering goods and services.

The Ed Wright Duo, The Doug South Band, The Legendary JCs, Chuck Riley’s All-Star Revue and Someday Honey Entertainers were the slate of entertainers lined up for the festival.

People settled in their lawn chairs to listen, or danced in front of the stage, as musicians entertained at the festival dedicated to blues and barbecue in Zephyrhills. (B.C. Manion)

People set up lawn chairs to listen, while others danced in front of the Florida Hospital Pavilion stage.

Dozens of professional and backyard barbecue teams competed for prizes and bragging rights.

Melonie Monson, executive director of The Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce, was enthusiastic about the event’s success.

“It is exciting to say this was our favorite BBQ yet; our team was amazing. We, at the chamber, are ecstatic with how everything came together,” Monson said, in a news release.

She noted having the event at the same facility for the second time made it easier to organize setting up the event, and offered a simpler layout for festival-goers to navigate.

She also expressed appreciation for the people who helped pull off the event. About 200 volunteers are involved each year.

“The teams this year were top notch, we had a variety of concessions who put out amazing food, the Kidz Zone was a huge hit, I heard rave reviews of the car show, and the bands were better than ever,” Monson said. “I talked to many who traveled far just to hear our bands,” she added.

As usual, the festival was built around a Florida BBQ Association-approved barbecue competition. More than 50 professional and backyard teams competed in the four standard categories of chicken, pork, brisket and ribs.

Professional teams had the added incentive of potentially winning $10,000 in prizes.

In the professional barbecue division, Hot Wachulas of Bartow, under head cook Matt Barber, took top place overall winning $2,000, plus $700 in individual category awards, not to mention an unprecedented rare score of a full 200 points for Ribs.

Swamp Boys of Winter Haven, led by Rug Bagby, took second place winning $1,500 and $850 in individual category awards. Both won trophies as well.

Backyard division winners were 27 South BBQ of Babson Park, under Danny Sharpless, in first place, winning a trophy and $200, and Smokin’ Ain’t EZ of Valrico, taking second place under Sam Nowakowski, winning a trophy and $100.

Monson noted that two of the teams received a perfect 200 score on their individual entry, which she said, “I’m told never happens and is unprecedented. That makes me proud to know we gave them the right combination to help them excel.”

The festival was enhanced this year with a Rock Wall in the Kidz Zone, sponsored by Suncoast Credit Union.

The car show was run by veteran Ronnie Setser, and Roy Kesner of Riverview took “Best of the Best” in early models with a 1937 Ford 3 Window Coupe.

Other highlights included an aviation showcase, access to the Military History Museum, and a business expo, the news release said.

Barbecue competition results:
Professional Division
Overall Winners: Hot Wachulas, first place; Swamp Boys, second place; GetChewSumBBQ, third place

Chicken: Uncle Toad’s BBQ, first place; Backyard Bro’s, second place; Hot Wachulas, third place

Ribs: Hot Wachulas, first place; Swamp Boys, second place; Sweet Smoke Q, third place

Pork: Pig Chicka Cow Cow, first place; GetChewSum BBQ, second place; Going Yard BBQ, third place

Brisket: Swamp Boys, first place; Uncle Toad’s Competition BBQ, second place; Uncle Kenny’s BBQ, third place

Backyard Division
Overall Winners: 27 South BBQ, first place; Smokin’ Ain’t EZ, second place; Big Red BBQ, third place

Chicken: Big Red BBQ, first place; Smokin’ Ain’t EZ, second place; 27 South BBQ, third place

Ribs: 27 South BBQ, first place; Smokin’ Ain’t EZ, second place; Papa’s BBQ, third place

Pork: 27 South BBQ, first place; Smokin’ Bros, second place; Bahr’s Smokin Butts, third place

Brisket: Smokin’ Bros, first place; Big Red BBQ, second place; 27 South BBQ, third place

Published January 31, 2018

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