Is the pig heading down a slippery sloop? I should hope not, but some believe that is so. Last week a letter to the editor was stuck in the front door of The News. The letter titled "What has Williamsburg County's Pig Pickin’ come to?" is written by someone whose concerns centered on the way the Kingstree/Bi-Lo Pig Pickin' Festival was handled. Her questions (I say "her" because I don't know many men who use a circle rather than a period under the punctuation mark) were legitimate and points I had brought up to various administrative personnel connected to the festival. The author's name did not appear on the handwritten page, therefore before I address her issues, I need to clarify the The News’ stance on unsigned letters. The News clearly states unsigned letters or letters with names withheld will not be published. In other words, we must be responsible for what we say. That said I'll tell you what I know.
The author began by saying our law enforcement can't handle the citizens' safely when we throw a mob at them. She was referring to Kingstree Senior High School having scheduled its homecoming on the same night as the opening of the festival, which inevitably brings out a boatload of "unsupervised" teens.
Kingstree Mayor Ricky Burrows said several years ago the town requested the school reschedule its homecoming as its sports schedule is adjusted every year. By contrast, the Pig Pickin' has been scheduled on the third weekend of October for over 20 years to accommodate the circuit-style BBQ festivals across the state, as well as avoid conflict with surrounding town's events.
A few points were made regarding the BBQ cookers themselves. The author has noticed some cookers have the same spot year end and year out. Mayor Burrows said it is customary to give the same spot to a cooker who has been attending for, say, forever.
The judges also were a topic of her concern. She argued the idea of having judges from different counties couldn’t do justice to our local BBQ. A little research shows that of the winners’ list from 2011 and 2012 which was judged by approximately 64 South Carolina Barbeque Association (SCBA) Certified Judges (some who are from Williamsburg County); in 2011, seven of the top 10 were from Kingstree and in 2012 the winners were split. And if I'm not mistaken, nearly all 61 competitors this year were from Williamsburg County. You can't get much closer to local BBQ fare than that. The list, along with other useful information about the judges can be found at scbarbeque.com.
The author also would prefer to see them moved to a separate location because the mob they attract interferes with the carnival. Gosh, did I miss something? Isn't the Pig Pickin' Festival about BBQ? I guess we could move them and rename the Kingstree/Bi-Lo Pig Pickin' Festival to the Carnival with the BBQ Down the Road Festival.
Festivals, fairs, or any other events never fail to bring out unscrupulous people who are hell bent on taking advantage of a situation. Take for instance the nursing facility that sits next to the festival. The parking lot of that facility is always full of cars that I'm willing to bet don't have anything to do with visiting grandma. The problem is the staff that must call law enforcement or a towing business to remove any unauthorized vehicles. And just so you know, according to the mayor the town gives the facility’s residents a tour, via staff driven cart - of course with the appropriate nursing staff on board.
While I'm at it, if we're going to complain about the asinine conduct inherent in most unsupervised teenagers then we need to point the finger - not at the festival or law enforcement - but at the parents who allow for such behavior.
How we determine whether a festival generates a mob or a big crowd is in the eye of the beholder. A successful festival, no matter where it is depends on attendance and everyone experiencing a good time. Having a festival that is staffed with enough law enforcement to keep the peace is always up for debate and one that is dependent upon town or county administration.
If the author WHWCPP is in disagreement with the way the festival is operated, I encourage you to voice your concern during a monthly Kingstree Town Council meeting. That's why the Town of Kingstree and Williamsburg County Councils are there - to hear and respond to the citizen. Just be mindful, you'll still have to state your name.