ZEPHYRHILLS — The fifth annual Pigz in Z’Hills BBQ & Blues Fest had its largest crowd — an estimated 8,000 — on Saturday, said Vonnie Mikkelsen, executive director of the Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event.
“What we saw on Saturday, and as we begin to tally the numbers, we can say confidently that our expectations have been far exceeded,” Mikkelsen said.
The event was held at Zephyrhills Municipal Airport for a second year. Admission was free, but parking was $10 a vehicle. At least 26 private aircraft took advantage of a free “fly-in” option.
The Pigz in Z’Hills is centered around a barbecue competition sanctioned by the Florida Bar-B-Que Association. The competition is a qualifier for three prestigious championship contests: the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational in Lynchburg, Tennessee, considered the Super Bowl of barbecue contests; American Royal World Series of BBQ in Kansas City, the world’s largest and oldest contest; and the Sonny’s Smokin’ Showdown Invitational, the Florida Bar-B-Que Association’s newest contest.
The Zephyrhills event includes a Backyard BBQ competition. A record 51 barbecue teams, 39 professional and 12 backyard, entered the barbecue contest.
Wink’s Barbecue, led by Wink Yelverton, of Fort Walton Beach, won Grand Champion Professional Division, qualifying his team for all three contests. Peter Golob of Extra Mile BBQ from Loveland, Ohio, took Reserve Champion. In the Backyard Division, Bettern Store Bot, with head cook Dave Grantham, of Bushnell, won Grand Champion, and Bamboo Warrior, with head cook Curley McKenzie, of Thonotosassa, took Reserve Champion.
“We couldn’t be any more thrilled with the result,” Mikkelsen said.
Pigz in Z’Hills BBQ & Blues benefits local youth and education programs and chamber community services.