With barbecue sauce and competition on their minds, Hillsborough residents are getting ready to pig out a little earlier than normal this year.
The Hillsborough-Orange County Chamber of Commerce has moved its annual Hog Day festival to the third weekend in May — a month earlier than previous years — to avoid hot summer temperatures at the town’s primary fundraising event.
Hog Day, the county’s largest festival, is entering into its 29th year in downtown Hillsborough. The event began as a bake sale that was traditionally held in late June, said Margaret Cannell, executive director of the chamber of commerce.
“The temperature has risen about seven degrees over the last 10 years on the third Saturday in June,” she said. “Not only has it gotten hotter, but more people are now used to having air conditioning than when Hog Day started 28 years ago.”
Cannell said the town has seen a slight decrease in attendance at the free festival, which typically draws more than 15,000 visitors each year.
But the town has been receptive to the new date of the festival, which is funded mostly by sponsors and costs anywhere from $40,000 to $80,000 to organize, she said.
When the festival is over, Cannell said the chamber of commerce generally nets between $15,000 and $20,000 from the event.
The two-day festival begins on May 20 when 35 teams of cookers from around the state arrive to prepare 3,500 pounds of pork. It is cooked overnight and then chopped and sold by vendors the next day, when people can vote for their favorite recipe.
Hog Day also boasts a variety of local bands, children’s games, arts and crafts and a vintage car show.
Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens said he has attended Hog Day for several years and appreciates the town’s recent efforts to make the festival more environmentally friendly.
“Almost everything is recycled, including the hog waste from the cook-offs,” Stevens said.
This year’s festival will also feature the second Hog Day Invitational, which will allow visitors to taste the pork recipes of the top five finishers from the past two years and select the best.
UNC senior Katie Ray, who grew up in Hillsborough, said her family does their best to attend Hog Day each year and that the festival has become an event where she can catch up with friends and enjoy food in the downtown area.
“Both longtime and new residents of Hillsborough appreciate the tradition and culture that Hillsborough offers,” Ray said. “Hog Day has become a fun aspect of that tradition. It’s a good way to just get out of the house and mingle with others in the community.”
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