CLOVER — Dennis Lepino became a barbecue aficionado after moving from New York to the Carolinas about 23 years ago. And on Saturday in Clover, Lepino said, “I’m having ball.”
Lepino and hundreds of others enjoyed sampling the barbecue made by 19 competitors during the second annual Butts and Bluegrass barbecue event at Clover Community Park.
The S.C. Barbecue Association-sanctioned event, which attracted seasoned and novice competitors from around the Carolinas, included competition and prizes in three meat categories: ribs, brisket and butt.
Festival-goers who paid a $10 entrance fee also helped battle hunger in the Clover area. The event, sponsored by Jeff and Lisa Thornburg and the town of Clover, was a benefit for hunger relief efforts of the Clover Area Assistance Center.
Competitors set up at the park Friday night and cooked all night.
Billy Robinson and his wife, Chris, who call themselves Big, Bad Wolf Barbecue, were first-time barbecue competitors from Mooresville, N.C. “We’ve learned a lot,” Chris said.
Billy Robinson said the couple discovered during cooking that they had a faulty thermometer and had turned the heat on their meat down too early.
“Everyone here is extraordinarily friendly and nice, and willing to show you how to do it,” he said.
The couple also said they received complimentary feedback from festival-goers who visited each cooking station to sample the meat. “I would do it again,” Billy said of the competition.
The Clover-based Butts-R-Us Barbecue, led by friends John Guyton and Rob Leatherwood, both also first-time competitors, seemed to get positive reviews from tasters.
“They said it didn’t need any sauce — it’s the way barbecue should be,” Leatherwood said. He said the team’s cooking process is “old school. Cooking with wood. No gas or charcoal.”
Winners in Saturday’s competition and prizes are:
• Butts, first place, Palmetto Smokehouse, Michael Harmon, $1,000 and a trophy; second place, All Smoked Up, Gary Taylor, $500 and a trophy; third place, Bold Branch BBQ Boys, Joe Hilliard, trophy.
• Ribs, first place, Backwood Bar-B-Que, Gene A. Culbertson II, $200 and a trophy; second place, All Smoked Up, Gary Taylor, $115 and a trophy.
• Brisket, first place, Big GQ, Garland Hudgins, $150 and a trophy; second place, Palmetto Smokehouse, $77.50 and a trophy.
Peoples Choice Award, first place, Reservoir Hogs BBQ, Alex Currence, trophy; and second place, Doko Smoke, Tony Crout, ribbon.
• Best Sportsmanship Award, East Coast Smoke, Luke McCary.
Best Vendor Award, first place, Allison Thornburg, trophy; second place, Pops Old Fashioned Ice Cream Factory, ribbon.