As the head judge officiating a sanctioned barbecue competition for the first time in Oak Harbor Sunday, Mike Marcum said he was impressed by what he saw around him.
“I’ve never seen anything like it out of all the events I’ve been to,” Marcum said.
The Oak Harbor Pigfest drew more people and served more food than any of the previous community block parties.
Scott Fraser, the event’s founder, estimates that at least 8,000 people attended Pigfest, about double the number the number of attendees in 2013.
The event was held for the first time in a more spacious, visible location on Pioneer Way after six years on Fidalgo Avenue.
A free pork meal was served to about 6,000 people — 2,500 more than in 2013 — and Fraser estimates that at least 2,000 more people attended, but didn’t wait in the long lines that stretched long and deep on the hot afternoon.
“All I can say is we had 5,500 forks and we ran out of forks for our food line,” Fraser said. “We ran out of plates. We ran out of barbecue sauce. We got more than 3,000 bottles of water and ran out.”
Cold drinks were in high demand on a muggy day that hovered in the mid ‘70s but seemed hotter with little escape from the sun.
A rock climbing wall, Wobbly Water Ball attraction and comedy acts on stage were big hits with children, while adults could enjoy live music, sample barbecue, visit a nearby car show, visit vendor booths and sit down and eat a free meal.
For the first time, a professional barbecue competition, sanctioned by the Pacific Northwest Barbecue Association, was held in Oak Harbor with $6,000 in prizes at stake.
The event drew 19 entrants that represented mostly Western Washington and British Columbia, with three participants from Oak Harbor.
Lake House BBQ, a solo operation run by Diane Mee of Everett, took Oak Harbor’s first grand champion trophy, which came with a $1,000 check. She graded the highest among judges in pork butt and ribs while rating second best in chicken and ninth highest in brisket.
“I just cook as a hobby,” said Mee, a grand champion for the fifth time in three seasons of competing.
The highest local finisher was Oak Harbor’s Roger Anglum, whose Smoke Tree BBQ team finished third in brisket.
Brian Adams of Fleet Reserve Association Branch No. 97 in Oak Harbor got fourth place in pork butt.
Jackie Stoneham’s Orlando Fish and Grill team took eighth in pork butt.
Contestants prepared four different barbecue meats for judges to scrutinize. Every hour, they were given 10 minutes to present the barbecue, with some unable to get the food to the judge’s table in time.
“It was stressful,” Stoneham said.
Having all three Oak Harbor teams come away with top-eight finishes in certain categories in the barbecue competition was another reason to make Fraser smile Sunday.
The owner of Frasers Gourmet Hideaway, he started the event as a way to thank the community for its support. With a volunteer base of about 200 and major sponsorships from Island Thrift, People’s Bank, Oak Harbor Motors and Saar’s Marketplace, among others, Fraser offered his own gratitude to them for making the event possible.
Although he didn’t have a figure yet, Fraser said that proceeds from Pigfest donations will go to local charities, including the North Whidbey Help House.
Volunteers cooked 3,000 pounds of pork for Sunday’s event and still had some leftover at the end.
“It’s a cool idea,” said Bill Stock, a barbecue competitor from Puyallup who had never been to Oak Harbor until the Pigfest.
The Pigfest stretched from near the front of Oak Harbor Motors to City Beach Street.
“It’s just the perfect setting for a block party,” Fraser said.
“I think this is the epitome of a community event.”