High on the Hog brings awareness to Habitat for Humanity
By Whitney Rauenhorst | From crab cakes to shrimp n’ grits and from homemade chicken salad to smoked pulled pork, ribs and slaw, this weekend saw lots of food and fun at Lowcountry Habitat for Humanity’s 2nd annual High on the Hog BBQ Festival. The festival presented cookers from around the state as each one competed for the crowd and judge’s stomach for the best in the SC BBQ Association sanctioned event.
After stormy conditions on Wednesday and Thursday, it was unsure as to whether or not the weather would pull through, but the sun and clear blue skies shined and several tents and trailers were set up along the river and underneath the moss covered oaks at Whitehall Plantation as the gentle breeze and music from both The Brewer Band and The Groovetones swept across the crowd and cookers.
Organizers were weather-hopeful. “The weather we have right now, and the weather that is projected for tomorrow is looking to bring in a couple thousand people,” said Bob Albon, the Chairman of the Board for Lowcountry Habitat for Humanity, on Friday.
For Gaston, SC resident and first year contestant Eddie Knight of Barbeque Pirates, the location was one of the reasons he traveled down to the Lowcountry this weekend. “We’d kind of done the upper part of the state a bunch, and we decided to come to the lower part of the state, and it’s supposed to be a beautiful location, and it is, so here we are,” Knight said.
However, the weather was not the only thing that was good this weekend. The festival showcased the talents of 26+ different cookers in two different and competitions: Friday night’s ‘Everything Lowcountry’ and Saturday afternoon’s ‘High on the High BBQ.’
“The first night was ‘Everything Lowcountry,’ and the crowd chooses the winner with poker chips,” said Brenda Dooley, the executive director for Lowcountry Habitat for Humanity. The crowd sampled each of the cooker’s food, placing a poker chip into their favorite competitor’s container at their stand. The cooker with the most pokers chips won Friday night’s competition, while Saturday afternoon, judges from the South Carolina Barbeque Association chose the winner based on taste, texture and whether the meat is moist or dry.
And boy did the food draw a crowd.
Lady’s Island locals, Jessica and Jonah Thompson came for the food. The Thompson’s attended the barbeque festival last year, but they said that this year was the best. “It’s the best yet – the location, and there was more food. “It’s a good cause too, but we love barbeque and seeing friends,” the couple said. “It’s a nice social event.”
The Friday night winners that were chosen by the crowd… ended up a tie between Hawg Rock Café and Still Smokin’.
For the Saturday afternoon barbeque competition, the South Carolina Barbeque Association chose winners No Pig Left Behind for the best ribs and Smokin’ Stacks BBQ for the best butts and overall winner.
Knight competed in both events, showcasing his famous chicken salad and pulled pork. “Tonight [Friday night] we smoked chicken salad, which is kind of a beach thing we do, so we smoked up some chicken thighs, chopped them up and made chicken salad, and it’s all gone. Tomorrow [Saturday afternoon], we’re doing barbeque and ribs, like everyone else.”
However for some, they were not at the festival to compete.
Featured in “Bon Appetit” magazine, the general manager of Jim ‘N Nicks restaurant, Brandon Stewart, said they were not there to compete but rather wanted to get involved in the community and help support Habitat for Humanity. “Bob was in the restaurant and asked if we wanted to be part of the festival this summer … we wanted to help support the cause,” Stewart said.
Knight also agreed that the festival was a great way to raise awareness. “I think it’s a great thing,” he said.
In addition to the food, music and the hungry competition, local firefighters were also at the festival. “We reach out to families and teach them about fire and general safety. We’re about coming together as a community,” firefighter Lee Levesque, said.
But like every story there is always a beginning. Before the barbeque festival, Lowcountry Habitat for Humanity used to help raise awareness and money for the organization with a bird house auction every year. “We used to have bird houses, but it just wasn’t bringing in anyone anymore, so we decided to do something different,” construction manager, Jim Inlow said.
Why a barbeque festival?
“During a board meeting, someone suggested a barbeque festival to help raise more money.” Dooley said. Inlow also said that the festival started “because we’re in the south, and barbeque festivals are great.”
Furthermore, the barbeque festival helped promote awareness about the organization. “People are coming out for the barbeque and then realize that it’s for Habitat for Humanity, so it makes it a litter nicer for them,” Albon said.
Judge Danny Watts agrees. “I think that they came out and saw the event and realized that it’s a barbeque and then found out what it was for in terms of the fundraiser,” he said.
With the new fundraiser in play, resource development director Ryan Copeland was one of many who helped spread the word about the festival. “[We used] every media we could think of: radio, TV, news, regular print advertising, Facebook, our website, and then we received some ATAX money from the city, so we spent money advertising the event in Charleston, Savannah and in Aiken.”
The advertising sure seemed to have worked because it’s estimated that approximately 1500 people attended the festival this weekend, and for volunteers like Janet Rooney, they became involved through an advertisement posted in her community. After attending the festival last year, Rooney was one of over 100 volunteers helping out this weekend. “The cause – it’s very important,” she said.
However, like Rooney, Inlow was also a volunteer at one point before he started working for the organization. “I started volunteering, and they asked me to work for them full time. The reason I do it is so the children have a chance,” he said.
Albon also does it for the kids. “When I retired I wanted some fun way to give back and Habitat was a great organization,” he said. “We can see the direct relationship between kids who are in a stable home and go onto high school and college as opposed to kids who don’t have that environment. The families we serve are both single parent families and multiple parent families and usually larger families, and it is just nice to give back.”
“At first this was a job, but now it’s more of a passion. Once you’re present at a home dedication, and you watch somebody get their keys for the first time and turn their keys in the door to a new life, it makes everything you do worth it,” Copeland said.
Please support Lowcountry Habitat for Humanity. It’s organizations like Habitat that help make Beaufort the amazing place that we call home.
For dozens of photos of the 2nd Annual Lowcountry Habitat for Humanity High on the Hog BBQ Festival, visit our Photo Gallery.
Whitney Rauenhorst is currently a senior English major at Clemson University working for The Tiger newspaper as an editor and writer who has also worked at Clemson University’s Digital Press. Whitney is involved in Gamma Sigma Sigma’s Epsilon Beta chapter, volunteering in the community. Whitney has also studied abroad in Glasgow, Scotland…but this summer she’s back in Beaufort preparing for her senior year, the GRE, and life after college. Whitney will be interning with eatstayplaybeaufort.com for the summer.