The longest running festival in Orange County is going back to its roots: Hillsborough Hog Day is coming home.
The 34th edition of the grand local event will be put on, for the third straight year, by the Orange County Optimist Club, a civic organization that focuses especially on charities that support local children. Hog Day will take place this year beginning on Friday night, Sept. 16, and continue with a 5K at 8 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 17, with the body of the festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. that same day.
The main sponsor for the event is, fittingly, Hillsborough BBQ Company, located at 236 S. Nash Street.
After spending 2014 and 2015 in Efland, the festival is returning to the River Park in downtown Hillsborough where it began. Optimist Club President Craig Lloyd says the festival is returning home for a couple of different reasons. For one, he and many of the members of the Optimist Club grew up with the festival and feel like Hillsborough is where it belongs.
“We had people in the Optimist Club who had had years and years of experience with Hog Day, and it just seemed like a natural fit, so the Chamber [of Commerce] ended up transitioning it over to us,” Lloyd said. “It’s traditionally been the weekend of Father’s Day, but the last two years the heat index was well over 100 [degrees] and we just figured that if we were going to change the venue, we might as well also look to make the change for when it will be.
Lloyd said the festival has both a theme and an objective this year. The theme is “bringing home the bacon,” and it symbolizes the festival’s commitment to keeping any proceeds from the event in the community and using the event as a vehicle to promote the businesses, schools, and organizations within the Hillsborough community. The objective is to both promote those aspects of Hillsborough, and to adopt many of the nostalgic aspects of the festival that people who grew up with Hog Day will remember.
“One of the things we’ve tried to do, is with us being a volunteer effort, we’ve tried to keep the money in the family,” Lloyd said. “So with that, we’ve gone in and tried to promote the schools, nonprofits, and companies within the community, so that we can bring that money home to them.”
Hillsborough BBQ owner Tommy Stann said his organization sponsoring the event was a no-brainer.
“It was a perfect fit,” Stann said. “We had a staff meeting, and we asked, ‘do we want to go big this year and be the title sponsor for this event?’ There wasn’t a person in the room who said no.”
Like Lloyd and many of the volunteers who run Hog Day, Stann has deep roots when it comes to the event.
“We got our start at Hog Day [in 2008],” Stann said. It was still a few years before Hillsborough BBQ opened its doors in April of 2011, and Stann pit-mastered his way to a second place finish at Hog Day. “The nostalgia of the event is a big part of the reason we decided to become involved,” Stann said.
Lloyd says that as far as nostalgia goes, since they took over the operation they have brought back the cooking competition, which is the centerpiece of Saturday – over 20 cooks will be cooking about 2.5 tons of pig and serving up sandwiches from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. The day getting over at 5 p.m., instead of the traditional 2 or 3 p.m. was intentional – Lloyd says it’s a way to try and keep the large swaths of people in downtown Hillsborough here for dinner, to check out the world-class restaurants up and down Churton Street and the surrounding area.
In a tip of the cap to the “best dressed pig competition” that used to take place at the event, Hog Day this year will feature something called “Pigs on Parade,” where different outlets around town will be decorating life-sized pig statues to reflect some integral part of the community.
“It’s a cool way to get a little promotion and to get people involved, and to build the excitement,” Lloyd said.
There will be tons of arts and crafts vendors out for Hog Day, as well as a new feature: an expanded childrens’ area with gem mining, where youth can mine for real jewels.
The whole festival kicks off on a Friday night with live bands, and the cooks setting up their smokers to get their famous barbecue ready for the main event.
The best part of Hog Day, according to Lloyd, is the best part of Hillsborough: it attracts native sons and daughters, and invites in a new crowd too.
“It’s like a homecoming,” Lloyd said. “You’ll see people you haven’t seen for years and years. We’ve got a good mixture: we’ve got dedicated loyal people who have come to everyone of them, and then people who just want to check out Hillsborough and see what it’s about.” Lloyd added that he spoke to a gentleman from Ohio who is planning on making the trek all the way to Hillsborough to check out the good eating south of the Mason Dixon line.
A perfect mixture of the old and new, Hillsborough Hog Day is coming home.
Article by Charlie Pogacar. Read more and find other local events at Newsoforange.com.