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Islanders pork out at free picnic on Oak Harbor's Fidalgo Avenue
Bright sunshine and enough barbecued pork to feed a small army proved the right recipe for thousands of smiling, greasy faces at the Fidalgo Avenue Block Party and Free Pig Roast in Oak Harbor Sunday.
According to Scott Fraser, event organizer and owner of Fraser’s Gourmet Hideaway, the annual block party was as popular as ever with volunteers plating up free lunches for about 3,500 people.
It took more than 2,150 pounds of pork, 600 pounds of potato salad, 525 pounds of beans and about 510 pounds of pasta to do it, to name a few of the items served, but they managed to get it done with a little left to spare.
“We made sure we made enough to serve a small aircraft carrier,” Fraser laughed.
Five years running, the popular mid-day event features live music, commercial vendors, artistic demonstrations, a range of children’s activities, and of course, the ever-popular pork cook-off among backyard and professional barbecuers.
Judging this year’s contest was Cheryl Johnston, Don Ingram, Jes Walker-Wyse, Ray Merrill and Henry Fox. Based on a 40-point system, pork samples were graded most heavily on taste but appearance and texture were also considered.
Picking a favorite was not easy.
“It’s delicious,” Merrill said. “It’s a very hard choice.”
“It’s so good,” agreed Walker-Wyse.
The judges were able to determine winners, however. In top barbecuer, Smoke Tree Barbecue owner Roger Anglum was able to unseat reigning champ J.D. Krueger of J.D.’s BBQ for the first place win. Krueger came in second while first-time competitor 2 Hogs and a Rooster took third.
Like all the professional competitors, the 2 Hogs and a Rooster crew began setting up shop and cooking on Saturday night. Hanging out in the parking lot was fun, said Rob Tull, one of three owners, but the best part of the event came the next day while serving.
“I like the customers reaction,” he said.
The name of the business is derived from physical appearances of Tull and his partners, John Prochaska and James Whipple. According to Tull, the name came to him in a moment of inspiration, and with no qualms from his friends, 2 Hogs and a Rooster was born.
Amateurs also had a chance to prove their grilling mettle in the backyard barbecue contest. Competition among the handful of participants was friendly but people still had their eye on the prize, said griller Andrew Manning.
“We’re all competing for the same goal: bragging rights and first prize,” Manning said.
“It’s a load of fun,” he said.
When the dust settled, Fleet Reserve Association Branch 97 walked home with first while North Whidbey Fire and Rescue took second and Lightin’ Log and Smokin’ Hogs claimed third.
Finally, in the people’s choice division, ShoNuff took first, Krueger second and Oak Harbor Tavern came in third.
Judging by the smiles on the faces of many in the crowd, the public had as good a time tasting the barbecue master’s efforts as they did cooking it. Many, such as the Vaeth family, said they love the event and come back year after year.
“It’s the community,” Shamron Vaeth said. “It’s just nice that they do it. Plus, of course, it’s free food.”
Fraser said the spirit behind the block party is just that; getting together with the community, having a wonderful afternoon and thanking them for their continued support of downtown.
“It’s our way of saying thank you,” he said.
Fraser thanked the approximately 200 volunteers that worked to put on this year’s event while also giving a special shout-out to events sponsors, especially Island Thrift, which gave $3,000. Without them and the many other sponsors that also contributed, the event would not have been possible.