How To See Everything At Spencer Penn’s Annual Pig Cooking Contest

There’s a lot going on at the annual Spencer Penn’s Pig Cooking Contest and it can take a while to figure out the best way to see everything.  Here are some tips for next year:

Go To The Friday Night Music Performance

There are generally two groups performing bluegrass on Friday night (the first might be a local jam session).  Admittance is $4 a person.  People start showing up around 5 o’clock and many bring a seat cushion to stake out a seat while they look at the silent auction items and get dinner from the kitchen in the back of the auditorium.  The line for the kitchen moves quickly, as do the homemade menu items, so get in line sooner rather than later. The dining tables may be crowded but they turn over fast. Be sure to get one of the deserts. All the food is handmade but the desserts are just really outstanding.
The BBQ contestants will have set up their grills behind the auditorium during the day and will be introduced during the music night performance.  Cooking commences in the evening, when the pigs arrive, and will go on all night.

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The back lot at Spencer Penn

Show Up Early to See The Bike Ride Kick Off

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The annual bike ride getting ready to start

This year’s route did take them up along Highway 58 but they had a Henry County Sheriff’s office escort.  I asked a rider from Martinsville what he thought of the ride afterwards and he said that he enjoyed it very much.  This was a great week for the bike ride because the roadsides were dotted with purple blooms from wisteria, redbuds, and cherry trees.  The network of residential roads by Spencer Penn are just gorgeous for bike riders (J.S.Holland Road, George Taylor Road, Moores Mill Road).

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Henry County Sheriff’s Office escorts

Blind judging of the cooked pork takes place on Saturday morning.  If you get there early enough to see the bike riders leave out, you can also see the pigs on the grills and talk to the BBQ contestants.  Contestants come from quite aways away, many from North Carolina.

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Coming from Texas, I had always thought that BBQ was pretty much exclusively a Texan specialty.  Having now lived in Virginia for a number of years, I have had to recognize that North Carolina is also a leader in this field and, don’t tell the folks back home, they may even be better at it.

After the judging, the pigs are carved up to make sandwiches that will be sold, along with a cold drink, chips, and some more homemade cake, back behind the building for lunch.  Vendors set up during the morning so you can stay and browse as they set up or pop back home and come back for lunch and browsing.

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Martinsville’s Phillips Turner’s Vendor Booth

There are a lot of vendors each year at the Annual Pig Cooking Contest. In fact, it is one of the largest gatherings for vendors in the area. Vendors fill the Banquet Hall, the back parking lot, and spill out onto the front lawn.

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We always leave with something.  This year we bought one of Mr. Turner’s brass-topped birdhouses and it has already attracted its first occupant, a blue bird. There are booths with jewelry, antiques, hand-made quilts, beautifully hand made cutting boards, jellies, jams, clothes, soaps, and the list goes on and on.

This year they had a childrens’ Barnival set up on the ball field.  There was a piggie train, lots of games and activities, and  a petting zoo courtesy of Infinity Acres.

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Setting Up for the Piggie Train
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Lots of Activities for Kids
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Infinity Acres Brought a Petting Zoo

There is always a classic car cruise-in too.  This year it was in the front parking lot.

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Spencer Penn posted over 250 photos of the event on their Facebook Page to the  7th Annual Pig Cookin’ Contest Photo Album.  Be sure to go check them out and send them some love.  If you couldn’t make it out this year, keep an eye on your calendars for next April.  Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but this is a hometown event that is better when experienced.

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Author: Beth Barton

I like to joke that I am a Texan living abroad. My husband is a Mainer and we chose to live in Henry County, Virgina because of its abundant natural beauty, temperate climate, and slow pace of life. We love small town America, the outdoors, cats, and chickens. I keep hoping to someday discover my inner artist but have so far only excelled at purchasing supplies. I am an accountant at heart. Sad, but true.

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