Reflecting on the Fourth Annual Pig Fest in October

by | Dec 2023

OLD-FASHIONED PIG racing, toe-tapping performances by local and worldwide entertainers, competitive cornhole tournaments, and college football, all marinated together with the top barbecue cooks in the nation, equals one big event: Pig Fest. With over 3,000 in attendance, this fourth annual event brought people together for two days of fun, food, and, of course, to celebrate all things pig. 

While most piglets are birthed in litters of 6-8, Pig Fest was birthed out of the pandemic to continue to provide gifts and once-in-a-lifetime experiences for over 400 underprivileged children through Christmas 4 Kids. According to Andy Gilley, director of parks and recreation for the city of Hendersonville, they partnered with Holiday Fest 501(c) (3) and Live Love Nashville. They raised an astounding $50,000 in 2020 to ensure Christmas 4 Kids continued as planned. Previously, the event was a dinner party for 200 but has now developed into a massive barbecue competition complete with 50 teams and 250 judges, world-class musicians, food trucks, and vendors that Gilley said will arrive from all over the country. 

For the last two years, the Grammy Award-winning Kentucky Headhunters headlined the event, and this year, entertainers included Dillon Carmichael, Ben Chapman, Clint Park, and Charly Reynolds. The lead vocalist of the Headhunters, Doug Phelps, is a local who has performed on the 

most renowned stages across the world, yet Phelps blocked out these dates on his schedule to attend. Mitchell Tenpenny, Lindsay Ell, Drew Parker, and others previously provided musical entertainment. 

“Pig Fest is one of our signature events for our parks and city,” said Gilley. “It allows us the opportunity to come together as a community to help others while enjoying some of the best food, entertainment, and good times anywhere around. These types of events are what Hendersonville is all about. People from all walks of life come together in a fun and unique way to help others. This is our take on a barbecue competition, and we are hoping to keep growing this event into the biggest and best in Tennessee.” 

Proceeds from Pig Fest provide Christmas gifts for children and what is called “the party of a lifetime” for every recipient. Fancy buses whisk the children away to a winter wonderland luncheon hosted by Santa and Mrs. Claus. Dancing, live music, and lots of fun are also on the menu. After the party, the children hop back on the tour buses and join a magical parade that stretches nearly 5 miles, led by the Nashville Trolley, Santa, and Mrs. Claus. Over 70 tour buses make up the processional, which ends at the Super Walmart. The fun isn’t over yet. They give each child a $150 gift card and send them inside with assigned chaperones to purchase anything they choose. Christmas 4 Kids also provides each child with a brand-new winter coat. “My fondest memory is when we first started this event. The sole purpose was to save Christmas 4 Kids, and we did that. Now it’s grown and enabled us to help others,” said Gilley. 

Funds raised from Pig Fest will also go toward the upkeep and maintenance of Mary’s Magical Place, an all-inclusive playground that welcomes children and people with all abilities. Funds will also support Live Love Nashville, a nonprofit that provides much-needed clothing, food, and school supplies to homeless children and helps families during tragedies. They recently offered over $100,000 to the family of Master Patrol Officer Spencer Bristol, who was killed in the line of duty. Grace Place Ministries and Hendersonville Samaritan Association will also benefit from the funds raised. 

High Lonesome Smokers took home the title of Pig Master Grand Champion. “We were stunned to win,” Steve Potter said. “With over $60,000 raised and donated, it feels great to serve and connect with the community. The organizers of the contests worked very hard. These things are really difficult to do well, and that group deserves a ton of credit for a tremendous job well done.” GN 

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