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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It’s Spring Again. Maybe.

The average temperatures for this area in April should be mid 70’s in the daytime and mid 40’s at night.  Talk is that, this year, we’ve been paying for having a warm February and winter has made several encore performances.  Still, it officially became spring on March 20th this year and the local festival season is starting to gear up.

There is exciting stuff going on over at the Fieldale Recreation Center (check their Facebook page for updates) and they had a bingo & Pampered Chef fundraiser this past weekend.  Martinsville Bulletin made an excellent write-up in this April 5th article, “Construction Starts on Bassett, Fieldale Renovation Projects“.

This coming weekend is the annual Pig Cookin’ Contest and Craft Fair at Spencer Penn.  Come Friday night to see the cooking and listen to live bluegrass.  Then come back on Saturday to shop the vendors, see the classic cars, and maybe play some cow-patty bingo.

In getting my camera ready, I realized that I never posted about our last festival for 2017.  It was a new one for us … the “What the Hay Festival” in nearby Mayodan, North Carolina.

We shop in Mayodan quite a bit because it is very close (around 20 minutes), there’s not a lot of traffic (it’s amazing how relative that gets), and their Food Lion has had one of the better craft beer selections around (it’s the closest place to get DuClaw).  Big round bales of hay started popping up all over town decorated as all kinds of creatures in the weeks leading up to the festival. They did an excellent job with those.

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There were decorative hay bales all over town before the festival

Mayodan has essentially a one-light intersection downtown but downtowns don’t have to be big to have an ambience.  Mayodan has a particularly pretty downtown with old brick buildings on all four corners.  On the day of the festival, they closed the road that ran through it and set up just a humdinger of a small town festival.

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Entering the festival grounds

In the center of the intersection, they set up a soundstage and people brought chairs to sit and listen to the music. The little shop that you can see on the left in the photo below is the Mayodan Arts Center. It’s sells a variety of arts and crafts made by local people – pottery, painted glassware, photographs, bookmarks, stationery, and more.  We ended up getting a few Christmas gifts from them and definitely plan to go back.

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Live Music in the Intersection

They had a full midway set up for the kids and vendors in tents filled in any space that was left on the streets. Mother got her flu shot at one tent.

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It was a great little festival.  We also discovered Charlie’s Soap Outlet Store & Cedar Mountain Country Store nestled in the shops along one side of the road. As the name implies, they have Charlie’s Soap but they also have all kinds of knick-knacks for the home and seasonal decorations.  If you talk to the shop owners, they’ll open up a second building with metal yard art/sculptures.  We are fans.

In short, we loved the festival and we love Mayodan.  There’s a lot to see there, I think, and I want to go back when it gets warmer and just spend some time looking around. Perhaps I can find more remembrances like this monument to Mayodan veterans. The engraving on this monument says, “This WWI mortar was originally dedicated to Mayodan veterans of that war. It was rededictated to all Mayodan veterans November 11, 2001”.

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This WWI Mortar is dedicated to all Mayodan veterans

So, I’m already planning to spend an afternoon in Mayodan sometime when it gets warm (if that ever happens again).  What other unique finds should I look for? Any great boutiques?

A Clement Weather Day at SML

I’m a big believer in “clement weather days”.  It only makes sense.  If there are a few days each year when the weather is just so bad that we get a day off, there should also be a day or two each year that are just too nice to work.  I’m not a church-goer and this just seems like a really nice tip of the hat to the Great Engineer.  A way to say “Thank you, God, for this day”.

We have a true fall here. This time of year we have spurts of summer where daytime temps can climb up into the upper eighties with nighttime temps in the sixties.  But now we also get days that do good to get into the seventies with nighttime temps in the fifties.  There are more “open window” days right now that not.  As I write this, what was Hurricane Nate is churning its way up the Blue Ridge Mountains and it is gray and drizzly – the mountains are holding the heavy rain to the west.  This past Friday was a perfect “clement weather day”.

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The iconic Harbor Town Miniature Golf course at Bridgewater

We took full advantage of it by heading up to the Smith Mountain Lake area.  We got there just as Moosie’s opened at 11:00 and walked around for a little while before lunch.  Mango’s an open air grill and bar with a live music venue doesn’t open until noon.

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Mango’s on a Friday morning before opening

Our plan had been to make it up to Beford to see the D-Day Memorial about twenty minutes away but it was such a beautiful day and we were enjoying Bridgewater Plaza so much, we didn’t want to get back in the car.

After lunching at Moosie’s, browsing through all of the shops, and feeding the fish, we took a walk down the boardwalk past Bridgewater Pointe,  a condominium that sits next to the plaza.

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Bridgewater Pointe Condos

I’d never noticed the boardwalk before so this was new for us.   The sun was shining and warm and there was a refreshing, cool breeze off of the water.  Boat slips whispered and creaked and moaned a little in the water.

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The boardwalk goes far beyond the condos

As you reach the point where the boardwalk bends, you can see the mountain in the distance. It is just far enough away that the camera doesn’t really pick it up.  It seems larger in real life.

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Mountains are just barely visible

A wary crane watched us pass and I wished that I had a long distance lens.

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A wary crane

But I didn’t.  We just enjoyed our view.

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Just a beautiful day at the lake
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Just a beautiful day at the lake

The boardwalk ends at the bridge that stretches over Smith Mountain Lake on its way to Moneta. It looks like they are doing some work there building either an extension to the current condos or additional parking.  There is a pad site for sale for another condo project.  I hope that we’ll still be able to walk on the boardwalk after this site is finished being “built out”.

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More condos to come?

There was no visible boat traffic as we walked down to the end of the boardwalk but that didn’t last long.  As soon as we turned around to start back there were easily half a dozen boats appearing all at the same time.  It truly was a beautiful day and a great day for the lake.

This is near the end of the season.  The bartender at Mango’s said that they would close for the season by the end of the month.  They’ll reopen sometime next March, when spring has returned as well.

For more information about this destination, please check out the following links:

 

A Steam Engine in Roanoke

When we moved here in 2014, we didn’t know anything about Roanoke to speak of.  When, in 2015, there was a lot of hooplah about the return of a steam engine from Spencer, North Carolina, we didn’t know why it was a big deal and didn’t know to ask.  The news reported that people waited beside the tracks along the route, hoping to get a video, even though the time that it would pass was kept a secret. We did think that that was odd, but we were busy and weren’t paying attention.

The local hockey team is called the Rail Yard Dawgs. Up until recently, the oldest craft brewery in Roanoke was the Roanoke Railhouse.   There are ads on television for the the popular local Roanoke restaurant called  The Great 611 Steak House.  At some point, you would think that we’d start asking questions, right?  Continue reading “A Steam Engine in Roanoke”

Feeding the Fish at Bridgewater Plaza

I say so often that someplace is “about an hour away” from Henry County that someone is bound to eventually get suspicious.  It’s true though.  Within an hour from here in pretty much any direction, there is something really cool to see or do.  Smith Mountain Lake, and specifically Bridgewater Plaza in Moneta, is one of these cool destinations.

Incidentally, this is also the lake where Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss filmed the 1991 comedy, “What About Bob?”.

Continue reading “Feeding the Fish at Bridgewater Plaza”

Most Photographed Mabry Mill

If you are sitting at a desk in Dallas looking up photos of the Blue Ridge Parkway, there’s a good chance that the majority of the photos that you are seeing are from the North Carolina stretch.  I don’t know if they just do a better job of Internet marketing or what the deal is there but there is one site along Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway that is touted as the most photographed. That is Mabry Mill.  It’s about an hour from Henry County, maybe a little less, just north of where the Parkway passes Meadows of Dan.  Part of the National Parks System, Mabry Mill is a perfect blend of natural beauty, history, and local fare.  The Mabry Mill Restaurant is lauded for its  sweet potato, blueberry, and apple pancakes made from buckwheat and corn meal ground at the mill.  Continue reading “Most Photographed Mabry Mill”