On Saturday, my husband, Clif, our daughter Shannon, and I went to an event that I had been looking forward to all week—The First Annual Family Barbecue & Gumbo Festival to End Hunger. To my way of thinking, it had 3 things going for it: It was a community event; it was a fund raiser for organizations such as the Winthrop Food Pantry and the Hot Meals Kitchen; and it would feature some of Craig Hickman’s delicious cooking. Craig, of Annabessacook Farm, is a terrific cook who not only cares about good food but also about the problem of hunger, and he volunteers at the Hot Meals Kitchen in Winthrop.
The Winthrop Rotary Club hosted this festival—Craig is the president—which meant that there were plenty of volunteers to make such an event run smoothly. The festival was held on the football field and glory be! The weather actually cooperated. Although the day started out gray and a bit damp, by 4:30, when the festival began, the sky was blue, and the sun was shining.
We live less than a mile from the football field, so we decided to walk rather than take the car. As we approached the field, the aromas of smoked and grilled meat mingled with spicy barbecue sauce, and we followed our noses to the tent with its long row of food and servers. Truly, it was a barbecue feast. Among other delectable items, there were ribs, brisket, pulled pork, corn bread, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, collards, and gumbo. There was so much food that there wasn’t room for everything on one plate.
As we went to the festival early, we got choice seating, and we began sampling the food on our loaded plates. The gumbo was nicely spiced, with a little tingle rather than a blast of heat. The pulled pork was sweet, tender, and not at all dry or stringy, some of the best I’ve ever had. The ribs were smoky and, again, tender. The cornbread was moist and cakey and very good. I’m not sure how to describe the taste of the collards. They weren’t bitter but were instead savory. When Craig stopped by to say hi, I asked him about the spicing, and he listed some of the ingredients: ginger, soy sauce, turmeric, onions, garlic, and curry. Hence the savory taste.
As we ate, more and more people came. There were music, Frisbee playing, and an air house for children. Some people spread out on the grass with their families. Joe Young, the police chief and one of the servers, wore a tie-dyed chef’s jacket. Jeff Woolston, the town manager, was at one of the grills. The lead sponsor of the festival was Charlie’s Subaru, and many of the volunteers had on yellow T-shirts with, not surprisingly, “Charlie’s Subaru” in big black letters on the front.
Craig told me he had worried that hardly anyone would come. It seems that he worried needlessly. Enough food was prepared to feed 300 people, and by the end they ran out of pork and had to go to Hannaford’s for pork chops. So the festival was a success, and deservedly so.
The crowds did not surprise me at all. During the week, I had been hearing an anticipatory buzz around town, with “Are you going to the festival? So am I.” And then there was the price—$10 per person or $25 per family. No wonder people came.
After we were done eating, we chatted with various friends and acquaintances. The sun was setting, but the day was still warm. Children shrieked with joy as they jumped in the air house, and everywhere there was the sound of happy people eating.
I hope this festival becomes a yearly tradition, and I’m sure there are many who hope the same thing.