Kinston is busily preparing to welcome visitors to a huge party with bragging rights: the largest whole-hog BBQ cookoff festival in the nation.
May 6 -7 marks the 35th BBQ Festival on the Neuse organized by the Kinston-Lenoir County Chamber of Commerce. Organizers expect attendance to top last year’s record 30,000 drawn in by the smell of that Eastern North Carolina staple: barbecue. This year promises plenty of ‘cue, food competitions, beer and wine gardens and arts and crafts markets. Leading up to the weekend are arts events, a golf tournament, classic car Cruise-In, amusement rides for the kids and more.
Festival activity centers around downtown where a television spotlight continues to attract national and international visitors to Chef Vivian Howard’s Chef and the Farmer Restaurant as seen on PBS TV’s “A Chef’s Life.” Once guests arrive, though, they discover a community rich in arts, nature, African-American music heritage from jazz to rock (former members of James Brown’s band still live here), historic homes, Civil War battlefields and a preserved Confederate Ironclad ship.
Festival highlights include:
· Hog Happening with more than 80 teams competing in the whole hog cook-off. On-site judging starts at 8 a.m. May 7.
· Opening ceremony 10 a.m. May 7 on the Heritage Street main stage.
· 11 a.m. May 7 BBQ plates and sandwiches on sale until 4 p.m.; advance bulk orders available.
· Fourth annual Sauce Boss Competion judging 2-4 p.m. May 7. Details: www.bbqfestivalontheneuse.com/sauce-boss-competition.
· Third annual Southern Sides Competition judged by Chef Howard and others at 2 p.m. May 7. Details: www.bbqfestivalontheneuse.com/southern-sides-competition.
· Festival-goers can sample and vote on the sides with a $6 wristband, or for $10 taste both sauce and sides entries.
· Friday night entertainment is North Tower Band playing oldies, beach, top 40 and funk at 7:30 p.m. May 6.
· Tours of Mother Earth Brewery, the CSS Neuse Interpretive Center and Civil War battlefields and more.
If You’re Going: Purchase advance tickets by calling the Kinston-Lenoir County Chamber of Commerce at 252-527-1131 or visiting 301 N. Queen Street, Kinston. Lots more details are online at www.bbqfestivalontheneuse.com. For more on what to see and do in Kinston, go to VisitKinston.com.
Luxury Accommodations: For this, our Luxury Examiner site, we must mention a new, luxury boutique hotel in the heart of Kinston. Check out glam, seven-room The O’Neil inside a former bank; the building is on the National Registry of Historic Places. The moment you walk in the lobby, the stunning ceiling plaster work, perhaps the finest in North Carolina, leaves you slack-jawed. It’s part of the $2 million building restoration. The intact lobby bank vault is now a walk-in for morning coffee or anytime bottled water or Mother Earth beer (the owner also owns Mother Earth Brewing, which also features Mother Earth spirits – locally bottled gin, whiskey and rum).
Check back here soon for coverage of our stay at The O’Neil and our first time at the BBQ Festival on the Neuse.
Working with the Chamber on the huge festival understaking are these sponsors: Alsco, Community County for the Arts, the Lenior County Cooperative Exension office, Lenoir County Agricultural Fair, Lenoir County Farmers Market, Mother Earth Brewing, Our State Magazine, Partnership for Children of Lenoir and Greene Counties, Skylight Inn BBQ, VisitKinston.com, WITN TV and WRNS radio.
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International and Luxury Travel Examiners J.S. Fletcher and spouse, Kathy M. Newbern, report on luxury destinations, spas and cruising around the globe. They are award-winning members of the Society of American Travel Writers and created YourNovel.com, their personalized romance novel business.