As a recent Yankee transplant to North Carolina, I have learned about the loyalty people of the “Tar Heel State” have for their preferred brand of slow cooked pork barbecue.
There are two primary variations of North Carolina barbecue. “Lexington Style” (sometimes referred to as “Piedmont Style”) claims to be the best barbecue in the world.
North Carolinians living along the Atlantic coastal areas eat more “Eastern Style” pork barbecue. And they have a different point of view about this “world’s best” claim.
My story, however, is not to draw distinction to barbecue preferences but rather is about my recent visit to the 35th Annual Barbecue Festival held in Lexington, NC… the legendary world capital of slow cooked barbecue.
Lexington, NC isn’t very large. With a population around 19,000, this town is like a larger version of the TV town Mayberry. One would expect to see Sheriff Andy, Aunt Bea, and Opie in any of the quaint town shops from a bygone era along historic Main Street.
Even though there are 12 restaurants in this small central North Carolina town where you can get barbecue (as well as barbecue being sold in “tents” along Main Street), the Lexington Barbecue Festival isn’t only about eating barbecue. There are many other things to see, do, and eat!
On one weekend for the past 35 years, the town becomes the focal point to “pig out” on excellent slow cooked pork barbecue and enjoy other attractions. Somewhere between 150,000 – 200,000 people descend on Lexington for one of the top food festivals in the USA!
The festival goes “whole hog’ to attract more than 200 vendors selling crafts, as well as other gastronomic delights such as Carolina kettle corn, candy apples, large turkey legs, fried apple pie, etc…. Nine blocks of Main Street are lined with six stages for continual Christian, country and mountain music and other entertainment. A small car show attracts car enthusiasts to see some beautiful vehicles.
If you are so inclined, you can purchase some “Fine Swine Wine” to accompany your barbecue at home.
The “Hogway Speedway” features pig races where specially bred pigs compete! One of the stages is reserved for entertainment for kids and there is a small attraction area for carnival rides specifically for youngsters.
But the slow cooked Lexington style of pork barbecue is the centerpiece of the festival. I have thought about additional things I would appreciate at this festival and I have a recommendation! It would be nice if a vendor would give free Zantac as a day of “pigging out” can take a toll on your stomach!