Sheila Weekly lives in Austin, Texas, where she's used to eating beef barbecue. On Monday, she got to sample South Carolina's pork-based version while attending the sixth annual A Hard Day of Labor BBQ Cook-Off at the Newberry Street Festival Center in downtown Aiken.
“It's different, but the sauces are just as good as they are in Texas,” Weekly said. “The barbecue from every single booth has a different taste. I like it. Eat more pork.”
The money raised at the Cook-Off will benefit the United Way of Aiken County, which kicked off its 2013 fundraising campaign on Aug. 30.
“We could watch football on TV and drink adult beverages, but instead we're out here doing something for the whole community,” said Aiken City Manager Richard Pearce. “The name (of the Cook-Off) is a play on what the judges used to say years ago, 'I sentence you to five years of hard labor.' That's kind of hard for people to remember so sometimes we call it the Hard Labor Day BBQ Cook-Off.”
Pearce added that he and Eddie George founded the event when they were trying to think up something different to do to raise money for the United Way.
“It's a friendly competition, and it gets bigger every year,” Pearce said.
No fewer than 10 teams vied for recognition this year in four categories: beans, ribs, pork butts and wild card.
Ultimate Tailgaters won the overall prize and also finished first in the ribs division, second in beans and third in pork butts and the wild card category.
Chris Fulmer and his wife, Kathy, had a hard time carrying all of the Ultimate Tailgaters' awards.
“It's just like anything you do in life, hobbies or sports; it's all about practice,” Chris Fulmer said. “My momma is a great cook and she always told me, 'You go with your instincts,' and we go with our instincts. We do catering part-time, and we do competitions.”
Aiken City Council member Lessie Price, her husband, William, and two of their five sons, Tony and Kevin, were busy serving up the food they had prepared to a long line of people. They started cooking at 6 p.m. on Sunday and remained downtown all night.
“I slept in a chair,” Lessie Price said.
Bill Martin supervised the Holy Smokes BBQ team that had around 16 members, nearly all of them his relatives, from Montmorenci First Baptist Church.
“We're saving the world one (pork) butt at a time,” Martin said. “If you feed them, they will come. Jesus was a fisher of men, and I am a feeder of men. That's how we tie it in to the church.”
Matt and Catherine Eirvin traveled from Pawleys Island with their two sons, Wells, 3, and Hampton, 5. They were in Aiken visiting Catherine's family.
“We've been coming here the last few years to get some good barbecue,” Matt said.
Adults paid $8 apiece in advance and $10 at the gate to dine. Tickets for children cost $4 in advance and $5 at the gate. In addition to food, they got to listen to a band and look at cars in a show conducted by the Aiken Horsepower Association.
“I'm trying everything,” said Greta Mills. “I've had the best baked beans. They're sweet, and I like mine sweet.”
Mills and her fiancé, Bill Anderson, are members of Aiken Horsepower, and they brought a royal blue Porsche.
Mills said she was going to eat even more barbecue on Monday night.
“We're having a cookout at home and the guests are coming over at 6 o'clock,” she said.
The menu for that event included pulled pork, baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad, homemade ice cream and boiled peanuts.
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.