Lexington Barbecue Festival
Barbeque is BIG business in Lexington, North Carolina. Every October, the city hosts a barbeque festival and folks flock in to treat their taste buds.
Like most everyone, I've tried various barbecue recipes over the years, but none really suited me. Connoisseurs will say there's a fine art to making this American delicacy and I believe it! In Lexington, North Carolina, they know all about great barbeque. Not the least bit shy about their lofty reputation, they call themselves "the Barbecue Capital of the World," and their annual barbeque festival draws enormous crowds.
But, other more objective voices have sang their praises. Travel & Leisure magazine called it "one of the top ten food festivals in the USA." The city of Lexington and Davidson county officially designated October as barbecue month. Events are held throughout October, such as the Tour de Pig, a annual cycling event, as well as tennis, golf and softball tournaments. The barbecue festival is the grand finale of barbecue month.
The festival is held in uptown Lexington, over an eight block area of Main Street, which is closed to traffic. In between bouts of feasting on barbecue, you can visit over four hundred exhibitors selling a wide variety of items from crafts to fudge. Five stages showcase entertainment from both local and national performers. They also have a special section with rides and games for the kids.
This city has a long history of making and selling barbecue. It was 1919 when the first barbecue restaurant opened and similar to today, it was set up in a tent in the middle of town. The venture proved so successful, soon another vendor opened a food stand. Now there are over twenty barbecue restaurants in a city of approximately seventeen thousand. If you're so inclined, you can even have Lexington barbecue shipped overnight by air to your house!
The chef's of today use methods only slightly changed from their predecessors. The barbecue from Lexington is so famous, it was on the menu of the Williamsburg Economic Summit, held in 1983. World leaders from Italy, France, Canada, Germany, and Japan among others, got a taste of real American cuisine.
Everyone seems to have their own ideas for making tasty barbecue and Lexington doesn't keep their cooking techniques a secret. They use pork shoulder, cooking it long and slow, over hickory wood until it's ready to fall apart. The meat is basted with "dip" a concoction of vinegar, water, salt and pepper. As the dip drips into the wood coals, smoke is created which rises up, surrounding and permeating the meat, thus giving it a rich, smoky flavor. The meat is served chopped or sliced, with extra basting sauce on the side. Makes you hungry just to think about it!
The legendary barbecue is served out of three main tents, two at the town square and another at the north end of the festival grounds. Each of these large tents requires a hard-working group of 35 people (sometimes more) to prepare the food, which includes cole slaw and french fries in addition to the delicious meat.
The scope of the festival has grown so large, it takes an entire year to plan. Organizers say they are proud many civic and non-profit groups are able to raise money by providing parking and selling concessions and raffle tickets during the festival. Also, organizations set up booths to present information and educate the public. A special section is set aside for them, near the county's historic courthouse.
Lexington is located in the Piedmont, just 20 miles south of Winston-Salem at the intersection of US 29/50 and US 52.