Lexington County annual festival cooks up fun in Gaston

GASTON, SC (WOLO) — Gaston may have less than 2,000 residents, but this weekend the small town welcomes some of the state’s best pit masters.

“It’s a good lifestyle. People tend to know each other. I think that’s a good thing, especially with everything going on around us,” said Troy Bivens, mayor of Gaston.

Lexington County is home to some delicious barbecue and this weekend, the 38th annual Collard and Barbecue Festival will be returning to Gaston.

Friday, pitmasters fired up their grills to compete at the festival.

“You need some kind of uplift to help people get through times when it’s hard, you know,” Bivens said.

The event features vendors, rides for kids and Saturday morning parade.

The main part of the weekend is the barbecue competition. Most of the pit masters have been cooking for over a decade.

“We started out in the organization judging and went to cooking. We’ve been doing it for about 13 years,” said Quentin Tedden, S’Lowcountry Q pitmaster.

The meat is judged by the South Carolina Barbecue Association based on five different categories.

“We judge on appearance of the box, aroma, taste, tenderness and overall impression,” Tedden said.

After being judged, the meat is served at the festival. Everyone seems to have their own favorite kind of barbecue.

“I’m more on the smoked side and I think that’s what’s unique about barbecue. Everybody’s got a preference on mustard, ketchup, vinegar pepper or natural,” Bivens said. “That’s the cool thing about it. You can make it how you like it.”

Making barbecue takes a lot of work. Preparation starts with trimming the meat before it gets put in the smoker the night before.

“Most teams would put it on around 8 o’clock Friday night. You would be taking it off around 6 or 7 in the morning,” Tedden said. ” You monitor it all night long.”

S’Lowcountry wins sometimes but that’s not what makes it worth it for the pit master.

“The comradery among all the cook teams. We all know each other. We see each other during different times of the year almost every weekend,” Tedden said. “There’s a little team smack talk and you have fun with that.”

With the help of volunteers, the mayor of Gaston has his own reason for keeping the festival going.

“Seeing the look on the kid’s faces when they’re out here having a good time,” Bivens said. “Mom and Dad are happy. Everyone’s relaxed and having a good Saturday.”

The barbecue competition runs Friday through Satruday with the parade through Gaston starting at 10 Saturday morning.

Categories: Lexington, Local News