FORT MILL --
Lee Blackwelder has his weekend planned around the wife, three kids and maybe 100 pounds of pig meat.
Lee’s BBQ isn’t a restaurant, but a barbecue team based in Fort Mill. On Friday night, Blackwelder will crank up the heat for his sixth cook-off at the Anne Springs Close Greenway. It’s an annual event he wouldn’t miss even if it weren’t pretty much in his back yard.
“This event is unique simply because of the location,” Blackwelder said. “Most of the cook-offs I have entered are held in the middle of the town hosting it. The Greenway is definitely a hidden treasure to people who are not familiar with the area.”
The Greenway’s Barbecue and Bluegrass event runs 6-8:30 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. A dessert competition is planned for Friday, where a $5 entry fee provides music and dessert tastings. Food and beer will be available for purchase. Performers include The Hinson Girls and The Lonesome Road Band.
On Saturday, $10 gets 10 barbecue tasting tickets. Music only tickets are $3. Bands include Deeper Shade of Blue, Appalachian Fire and Bobby and Blue Ridge Tradition.
Organizers expect more than 20 teams for the barbecue event. Competitors come from Fort Mill, Rock Hill, York and other locales. Loren Wild is entering his third competition as “Hog Wild,” a team of not quite 40-year-olds that includes his brother and a family friend. They’ve been to Columbia and Chester, and have another event lined up after the Greenway competition. They’ve finished “about midways in the pack,” Wild said.
“We just got started into it this year,” he said. “We just like barbecue.”
The Wild brothers are custom homebuilders on Clebourne Street, but they haven’t been to the Greenway event as spectators or a team. They do know one thing about it, something they can figure from the 10 Boston butts and 10 racks of ribs being served up per team.
“There’ll be plenty,” Wild said.
Also from Fort Mill is Boss Hog’s BBQ. Rick Johnson and Craig McCall are entering their first competition together. Johnson did compete in “extensive events” for a decade in Texas before relocating.
“I do not own a restaurant but was a chef for eight years at one point,” said the automotive chemical company worker.
Being at his first Fort Mill event, Johnson isn’t too concerned about results.
“No pressure for us, we just enjoy cooking barbecue and are looking to the experience as an opportunity,” he said. “Our expectations are to provide a great experience for those that attend the festival.”
The family atmosphere of the festival is something anyone from Fort Mill or beyond can enjoy, Blackwelder said. He’ll compete with sone Eli, 12, and Caleb, 10. Even daughter Lizzy Grace, 2, will be on hand.
“Cooking in your hometown is more fun than cooking anywhere else,” Blackwelder said. “You see friends and family there, so I think it takes the pressure off. My expectations are to have a fun time with my family and see people I haven’t seen since the last cook off.”
At least until the awards presentation starts.
“And hopefully take another trophy home,” he said.
For directions and more information, visit ascgreenway.com.