The annual High on the Hog Barbecue Festival has been a Franklin County mainstay for 32 of the last 34 years, but COVID-19 has changed how the event has been handled.
The festival was canceled last year due to the pandemic, but organizers are going to try something different this year on a much smaller scale to keep the event alive.
Brenda Long, a member of the Franklin County Kiwanis Club which sponsors the festival, told the Winchester City Council on April 13 that the initial intent was to have another event sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society.
However, she said the Barbecue Society’s COVID-19 social-distancing rules made it nearly impossible to have High on the Hog under the organization’s standards, which would involve 75 judges and another 20 support personnel at Winchester City Park’s public pavilion.
Long said that the pavilion is not large enough to properly social distance and meet the KCBS guidelines.
For that reason, she said a smaller event — the Tims Ford Steak Showdown — will be held in its place and will be handled through the Steak Cookoff Association, based in Bedford, Texas.
Long said the Cookoff Association’s format will require about 25 judges, which the pavilion will be able accommodate.
“This is going to be High on the Hog in a scaled-back version just so we can get some normalcy back in our lives,” she said.
The Steak Showdown will take place on May 15 at the Winchester City Park, 1561 Phillip Fulmer Parkway.
Just like past High on the Hog events, the contest will be accompanied by a carnival.
Long said the carnival will arrive on May 16 to set up and will be in operation from May 18-22.
The City Council approved to allow the cook-off and carnival to be held but is requiring a $2,000 deposit to ensure the City Park’s grounds are maintained and kept clean after the events.
Mayor Terry Harrell said that it rained during a recent High on the Hog event, and the carnival had torn up the grounds when it left. He added that the departure occurred at about midnight when carnival workers were tired, and their main objective was to get on the road as soon as possible.
Harrell suggested that a $2,000 deposit be required.
City Administrator Beth Rhoton said that when the city has required deposits in the past, it’s usually been in the form of a check that is cashed only if money is needed to restore property back to its former condition.
Long agreed to have the Kiwanis Club provide the deposit.
Harrell said if the property is left as it was, the check wouldn’t be cashed, and if restoration costs totaled $500 in city-employee man hours, $1,500 would be returned to the organization.