It was a brisk January day, but that didn’t stop the fourth annual Pigz in Z’Hills BBQ & Blues from setting a few new records.
The event raised about $30,000, after expenses were covered — 50 percent more money than it ever did before, said Vonnie Mikkelsen, executive director for the Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the annual festival.
Most of the money raised will be doled out to various organizations, which help put on the event, she said. The festival also drew 44 barbecue teams and a crowd of about 6,000 to 7,000 people.
The event had a lot of firsts this year. It had a new venue, the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport. And it was in January for the first time, giving winter residents a chance to check it out.
Sixteen private pilots flew in for the day to enjoy the barbecue and bands, and Mikkelsen expects that number to grow in coming years as word spreads in the aviation community about the event. This year, they flew in from as far away as Miami and Jacksonville, she said.
Plans call for continuing to stage the event in January at the airport, Mikkelsen said.
“Having it at the airport, it presents a whole new horizon,” she said, noting next year organizers plan to showcase more aircraft at the event.
In addition to barbecued foods and bands, the event also featured exhibitors, a car and truck show and rides for kids.
The barbecue competition, which is sanctioned by the Florida BBQ Association, drew 30 competitors in the professional category. The grand champion of the professional division will receive an invitation to the American Royal National Championships in Kansas City, Mo., and entered in the drawing for the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational Barbecue Competition in Lynchburg, Tenn.
This year, Sweet Smoke Q of Winter Haven, with head cook Jim Elsner, won the professional division. The team received the Pigz in Z’Hills BBQ & Blues Grand Champion Professional Division trophy and a $1,700 prize.
Hot Wachula’s of Lakeland, with head cook Matthew Barber, was the reserve champion professional division, and received a $1,500 cash prize.
Bettern Store Bot, with head cook Dave Grantham, won the grand champion trophy and a $150 cash prize in the Backyard Division. Papa P’s, with head cook Wayne Peterson, was named reserved champion, placing second.
Since its inception, the festival has raised thousands of dollars for local youth and education programs, and community services provided by the Zephyrhills chamber.
Published Feb. 19, 2014
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