Pigz in Z’Hills BBQ & Blues Fest held concurrently with the Zephyrhills Airport Aviation Expo on Saturday drew record crowds and higher revenues, according to the Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce.
Event organizers estimate 6,000 to 7,000 people attended the annual event, held for the first time at the Zephyrhills airport.
More than 140 exhibitors participated — including 44 barbecue teams, 60 business and aviation exhibitors and vendors, a dozen volunteer groups and about 60 community partners and sponsors — making this year’s event the largest to date.
Zephyrhills Municipal Airport Manager Mike Handrahan said 16 private aircraft flew in for the festival, at least one from Miami and another from Jacksonville.
Sweet Smoke Q (Jim Elsner, head cook) of Winter Haven won the Pigz in Z’Hills BBQ & Blues 2014 Grand Champion Professional Division trophy and a $1,700.00 prize. Hot Wachula’s (Matthew Barber, head cook) of Lakeland won Reserve Champion Professional Division and a $1,500.00 prize.
In the Backyard Division, Bettern Store Bot (Dave Grantham, head cook) took home the Grand Champion trophy and a $150 prize; Papa P’s (Wayne Peterson, head cook) was named Reserved Champion, placing second all-around.
Six Zephyrhills teams joined others from around the state and as far away as Ohio, competing in the standard four categories of chicken, pork, brisket and ribs.
The Florida BBQ Association sanctioned the Pigz in Z’Hills BBQ competition in 2011, and the event went on to become a State Championship Contest in 2012. The Grand Champion of the professional division will receive an invitation to the American Royal National Championships in Kansas City and be entered in the drawing for the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational BBQ Competition in Lynchburg, Tenn.
Since its inception, BBQ & Blues has raised thousands of dollars for local youth and education programs and community services of the Chamber of Commerce.