The benefits of the Newport Pig Cooking contest last well beyond the thousands of plates of barbecue that will be served up to the community this weekend.
The event began 35 years ago as a fundraiser for the former Newport Developmental Center and has remained steadfast in its mission of helping others.
Nonprofit groups are invited to apply for funding from the event, which has to-date given about $800,000 to community organizations.
Newport Pig Cooking President Jim Bristle said the organizations have been many and represent a wide a range of programs, projects and activities, from scouts and school band programs to youth sports, meal delivery for the homebound and hospice care.
This year, 25 organizations will benefit.
“We try to help as many people as we can,” Bristle said.
Newport Pig Cooking, an all-volunteer organization that puts on the event, keeps enough to run the event and gives the rest back to the community.
“We keep just what we need and all the rest goes back to the community,” Bristle said.
For Scout Troop 61 in Newport, that support is much appreciated and can mean anything from funds for camping equipment or gas money for travel on outings.
“It helps us out tremendously and helps everybody out,” Scoutmaster James Mullins said.
He said the local scouts help out during the event, with cub scouts helping wash pots and pans, and boy scouts helping with parking and traffic flow.
“We help them out and, in turn, they help us,” Mullins said.
Along the way, Newport Pig Cooking has evolved into the largest whole hog barbecue pig cooking contest in the United States.
Bristle said 78 cooks are expected to compete this weekend from across North Carolina, from Virginia and as far away as New York.
They’ll fire up their grills Friday night and cook overnight in preparation for judging on Saturday morning.
After two rounds of judging — 8 a.m. for group A and 10 a.m. for group B — all the barbecue is cut and ready for the serving of barbecue plates beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday. Plates cost $7.
Anywhere from 7,000 to 8,000 plates are typically sold during the day, and the event draws an average crowd of 10,000 to 12,000 people to Newport Town Park each year.
The family event includes a lineup of live music, arts and crafts vendors, rides and bake sales and funnel cakes.
Volunteers with Hospice of Carteret County will be back working in the serving line, dishing out barbecue for a day in appreciation for the funding the event provides them throughout the year.
“It certainly has helped us,” said Patricia Wilder, volunteer coordinator and bereavement counselor with the agency.
Wilder said any proceeds they receive from the pig cooking go to the Carteret General Hospital Foundation and are earmarked for the nonprofit hospice agency.
She noted that the agency provides services to Carteret County residents regardless of their ability to pay, and the pig cooking funding helps to cover that cost.
Opening ceremonies are Friday at 4 p.m. and activities continue until 11 p.m. The event continues Saturday, with rides and crafts open at 9:30 a.m. and live entertainment from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The awards ceremony for the pig cooking contest is at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
All activities take place at Newport Town Park off Howard Boulevard.
Admission and parking are free.
For more information, see the event website at newportpigcooking.com.