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NC farm dinners, fire dept bbqs, chili/stew cookoffs, creek oyster festivals, fish frys, etc. thread

  • m

This coming summer and fall will be my last in North Carolina (at least this time around). I think I've done a great job seeking out excellent foodie experiences here over the past few years. However, I haven't immersed myself in the local "community" events that small towns tucked away on creeks and in forests around this great state hold on various occasions. I think I'd be missing out on my NC experience without seeking these out during the upcoming seasons.

A lot of these events are hard to find and require a lot of "local" or firsthand knowledge. So let's make this an ongoing thread - to share upcoming events we know of, or our previous experiences with some of them. The important element of the festivals we should list here is the FOOD. So let's maybe not list the huge commercialized events like the NC Seafood Festival in Morehead City or the Lexington BBQ Festival, but smaller home-grown events where the recipes are timeless, the pots are from local kitchens, and the tradition trumps all. I'm talking about stuff like the volunteer fire department bbqs that you'll sometimes see a handwritten sign for on the roadside indicating an upcoming weekend (so if you see something like that, PLEASE POST), or a church fish fry (open to the public), or a small community event that's high on quality but low on publicity.

To get us started, here are a few that have come to my attention (some I list are a bit on the "popular" side, but that's exactly why this thread might be useful to uncover the hidden gems):

Mill Creek Oyster Festival - Carteret County - first weekend of November - has been going on for 30-some years, run by the Mill Creek Volunteer Fire Department. Described as "annual oyster roast in November is an all-you-can-eat feast for one reasonable charge, usually around $12. Also fish and shrimp available. Side dishes include baked beans , cole slaw, and hushpuppies.

Sneads Ferry Shrimp Festival - August 8-9, 2009 - a community-run event supporting one of the last working waterfronts in the state. http://www.sneadsferryshrimpfestival....

Ayden Collard Festival - September 12, 2009 - the collards are cooked by Bum's in Ayden - best collards I've had in my life, so this can't be a bad thing. http://www.aydencollardfestival.com/

Fayetteville Greek Orthodox Church spaghetti dinner - mid-November - some say this is the best spaghetti they've ever had, and the recipe for the sauce is as tightly-guarded as the Coca Cola formula - http://www.wral.com/news/local/notewo...

Person County Saddle Club - (multiple times per year - need more info.) - Brunswick Stew bashes and August Earthen Beef Roast

Valle Crucis Country Fair - October 17, 2009 - this is my favorite event of the year of community events I've attended so far - an oversized church bazaar with amazing foods - apple cider, apple butter, Western NC style BBQ, chili, muffins, slaw, jams, preserves, homemade baked goods. http://vallecountryfair.org/

Elodie Farms Dinners on the Porch (near Durham, NC) - monthly - this is WAY at the other end of the spectrum, but features many of the Triangle's best chefs cooking exclusively with farm-to-table ingredients. http://www.elodiefarms.com/dinner.html

Celebrity Dairy Sunday dinners - Chatham County - very similar to the Elodie Farms events - http://www.celebritydairy.com/events/...

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  1. You may be too late for the ramp festivals in the western part of the state. You are welcome to my share of what's left. Google nc ramp festival ... for info.

    1 Reply
    1. re: blewgo

      The White Top Ramps Festival in Virginia is late -- I always wonder how high they have to climb to still find ramps in May.


    2. Excellent idea. I've seen a few signs recently, so I'll make a note of the dates tomorrow on the way to/from work.

      1. The Blue Ridge BBQ Festival lets you eat what the competitors are cooking, not commissary prepared BBQ like some BBQ events.


        2 Replies
        1. re: blewgo

          ahh, this is a good one. I never understood the concept of holding a BBQ cookoff where patrons couldn't even taste what was going on.

          1. re: blewgo

            There's a similar event at the NC Fairgrounds in Raleigh. It's the Got to Be NC Festival. The festival dates are May 29-31. The "NC Pig Jig" BBQ contest is Saturday, May 30, 11-3:00. There's also the NC Food Expo, all three days. Lots of NC foods and wines. Last year, I ate a couple of meals just with the samples. :-) AND there's a carnival with "Fair foods."

          2. The Cullasaja Gorge Volunteer Fire Dept. in Franklin is having their annual ramp festival this very weekend, Saturday May 2, 4 to 8 PM. They are located on Hy. 64 about 2 miles east of town. They mostly serve fried chicken and potatoes with ramps, but if you ask nicely you can get mostly ramps and pass on the rest, especially if they are near the end and have a fair amount left.

            1. Eastern Pines Volunteer Fire/EMS bbq fundraiser is tomorrow:


              Looks to be located adjacent to the Episcopal church on Firetower Rd., near the 14th St. intersection.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Naco

                wow, this is exactly the sort of scoop I was hoping for. Will try to make it over there if I can finish this term paper...

              2. Ham and Yam Festival is in Smithfield, NC this weekend.


                1. The Storytelling Festival of Carolina in Laurinburg, NC is in April, so I guess that won't work for this year. Maybe you could hit it on a visit later back to the area. Or, perhaps others would enjoy it.

                  I took my Mom to this festival, because she does storytelling locally. It was the very first year, and we had a blast.

                  The collard sandwiches were fabulous. They are made with kind of fried cornbread like pancakes but with cornmeal. Then old fashioned collard greens are served between two of those with a hot pepper or two on the side. Also a piece of crunchy fat back. Some senior citizen ladies had that booth.

                  The other stand out was white chili. It's chicken based instead of beef based, and the beans are white beans. I think a Fire Dept had that booth.

                  I hope to go back again. It was a very friendly festival, and the food was fabulous.


                  1. I have to plug the Celebrity Sunday dinners. Have been a few times and they are amazing! Plus it's fun to play with the goats :)

                    1. Noticed a few makeshift roadsigns for some events happening in Eastern NC this weekend:

                      Hubert Volunteer Fire Department BBQ fundraiser -
                      May 29 and 30 - $6.00 per Plate - at Advance Auto Parts, Western Blvd., Jacksonville, NC

                      Swan Quarter VFD Fish Fry Lunch & Dinner
                      May 30, 2009 11:30 am until 7 pm
                      Fried flounder, buttered potatoes, coleslaw, hush puppies, dessert and tea. Adults $8.00 and children under 12, $5.00 per plate.

                      Grifton Vol Fire Depart. Ladies Auxillary Spaghetti Dinner
                      May 30, 2009 6pm-8pm

                      1. While this is not traditional NC food I think it fits in with the spirit of your post. A local Lao church in High Point is selling homemade Pho as a fundraiser. Info is here http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/627122

                        1. A good time of year to revive this thread given all the fall festivals and fundraisers going on right now. Here's what I have on my calendar based on word-of-mouth, spotting signs/banners, etc.

                          Valle Country Fair - this Saturday up in Valle Crucis. It's where I'll be, and a great tradition at a height of peak fall color up in the mountains.


                          Also going on this Saturday is the NC Oyster Festival down on Oak Island, NC. The vendor offerings look to be a substantial selection of shrimp, oysters, chowders, gumbos, seafood baskets, and more typical "fair food" http://www.ncoysterfestival.com/hungr...

                          Driving into work today, I noticed a sign for the Odell Lion's Club Annual BBQ. It'll be at the corner of Odell School Road and Hwy 73 between Huntersville and Kannapolis. Starting at 10AM, Pork/Chicken Plate $7, Sandwiches $3 or 4/$10, Bulk Pork $8 lb.

                          A couple of famous backyard church bbq fundraisers are coming up in a couple of weeks. The most famous of them all, the Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church BBQ, takes place on Thursday, October 27. It started way back in 1929, and they cook approximately 13,000 lbs of pork. People also rave about their brunswick stew, and curiously enough it's thickened with rice (a nod to CLT's proximity to SC, I suppose). The book Holy Smoke has a good writeup about the history behind this event. It's a favorite place for politicians to hobnob with the locals.


                          A week later on Thursday, November 3, the Poplar Tent Presbyterian Church in Concord holds their annual bbq. 66 years in the running, their event is also mentioned in Holy Smoke and is nothing to sneeze at either (12,000 lbs of pit-cooked pork).


                          5 Replies
                          1. re: mikeh

                            Too late now, but make plans for next year if you like fresh lobster. St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Cary has a lobster lunch each October. Read about it at the link below.


                            1. re: mikeh

                              New Hope Fire Dept. is advertising a carry-out BBQ event for Nov. 12th. Only thing is there are two stations, one off Whitfield Rd. and another on 86 going towards Hillsborough and I'm not sure which one is doing the event.

                              1. re: bbqme

                                bbqme, it's got to be at the Whitfield Rd station since they have a full kitchen and dining hall.

                                1. re: jnday

                                  I've definitely seen signs in previous years at the Whitfield Road location, but I can't remember if it was around this time of year or not. It's probably a pretty good assumption though that it's being held there.

                                  1. re: jnday

                                    Great 'cause that's like a mile from my house.

                              2. If you want to live vicariously, NC Folk's food blog is a good place to check for this kind of thing at this time of the year. There have been several related posts in the last few weeks.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Naco

                                  I'm going to have to mark my 2012 calendar for a lot of these. What a great resource.

                                  1. re: Naco

                                    This is true. Their website is an interesting window into everyman's North Carolina. Their food blogger does a great job; we've been to some of the places he posted about and enjoyed them.
                                    NCFolklife.com I think is the website.

                                      1. re: TerryG

                                        For those who are in the Wake Forest area, WF Methodist church is having a Brunswick Stew sale today, it is located at the corner of Hwy 98 (the new bypass) and South Main St. I usually stop at these when I see them or read about them. I stopped today and I have to give it a very high rating, the stew is very good with lots of vegs and meat, the sauce might need just a slight more flavor but this is good. The great thing is the huspuppies they are serving, they are GREAT. You can eat in and have a bowl of stew, hushpuppies and drink for 5.00, a quart is 7.00. if you carry it out . Not a member of the church but this is a very solid stew sale. Last until 7:00 pm

                                  2. Swansboro Rotary Club Oyster Roast is this Saturday, March 15:


                                    1. On April 18 and 19 the NC Herring Festival will be held in Jamesville, NC: