If you like North Carolina pork barbeque then you won’t want to miss the Jiggy with the Piggy Festival. Held annually in Kannapolis, NC, it was recognized as a Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society.
The festival is usually held in early May at the North Carolina Research Campus Horseshoe in Kannapolis, NC. This is a great location for a festival with plenty of room for 100+ vendors, and the 50+ barbeque competition teams.
While the event attracts a large crowd, the large field, and circle design keeps things moving and makes If feel open. There’s a grass field between the campus buildings with a large sidewalk (really more of a track) around it. Vendors are set up on the outside of the track. You simply walk around in a circle to visit them all.
The competitors are parked inside half the grass field with their trucks and campers. The remaining half is set up with food trucks and other food vendors.
A small midway is in a second field to the side.
I have to say that this was the most efficiently run festival I have attended and I’ve been to quite a few North Carolina festivals. There are signs throughout the area, a golf cart with 4 volunteers that drive around the circle emptying trash bins, and port-a-johns on both sides of the circle.
Jiggy with the Piggy Food
This is a barbeque festival so there is plenty of food. Several food trucks and the usual vendors you see at a fair were there. I also counted 4 ice cream trucks, including “The Sweetest Thing”. We heard from a few locals this was a must-visit and we were not disappointed. That was some of the best black cherry ice cream I’ve ever had and I consider myself an aficionado.
While we didn’t try it, Off the Bone was there selling a variety of plates with their award-winning barbeque. They must be good because the line was long.
We opted to purchase a ticket to taste up to 10 pork samples and cast our votes for “people’s choice”. The samples were generous, and I got enough to eat. The line went across the entire lawn inside the horseshoe and then wrapped around, but the volunteers kept things moving and the wait wasn’t long.
Another option is to purchase a plate from the fire department which we heard were pretty talented chefs. We couldn’t try everything because there were too many options.
If meat isn’t your thing, downtown Kannapolis was open for business.
Jiggy with the Piggy Activities and Events
Jiggy with the Piggy starts on Wednesday with a baseball game. The BBQ competition teams start arriving Thursday.
There’s a 5K fun run where you can win prizes if you dress in a pig-related costume. Throughout the week there are more baseball games, a concert, fireworks, a pancake breakfast to raise money for the YMCA, and of course, the BBQ competition itself.
The festival has over 100 vendors and a small midway with a few rides for the kids. There is a cost for the midway rides, but the money goes to charity.
Of course, the big event is the tasting. The line to taste and vote for People’s Choice was crazy. It went all the way across the field and then started to bend around. The volunteers did a great job of keeping it moving, but wow! It was clear that this was THE event most people looked forward to.
Tips for First Timers at the Jiggy with the Piggy
Downtown Kannapolis is a cute town. Save some time to walk downtown after the festival.
The crowd begins to surge around lunchtime. Many people come just to sample the barbeque. If you arrive before 11 am, you won’t feel as crowded around the vendors.
I was a little disappointed that there were no live bands throughout the day. Most festivals have bands playing all day. Jiggy with the Piggy had a concert on Friday night, then played music through the speakers throughout the day Saturday.
Saturday is the main day of the festival. It officially starts Friday night at 5 pm.
Parking and When to Arrive
There are parking lots all around the horseshoe at the Research Campus. Kannapolis has a good map noting the lots and they clearly note which are free during concerts and events (scroll to the bottom of the map page).
We arrived at 10:40 am and parking was easy. It was clear things got a little tighter as the day progressed. I would try to arrive around 11 am (possibly 11:30) if you don’t want to hunt for parking. The crowd definitely begins to surge around lunchtime.
Attractions and Vendors
The website noted that tickets for the People’s Choice tasting went on sale at 11:45 and the tasting ended at 2 pm. When we arrived, people were purchasing tickets as early as 11:15 and, when we left around 2:30 pm the line was still going across the field, and it didn’t look like it was shutting down anytime soon.
I saw a lot of new vendors which is great. When you go to enough festivals, you often see many of the same vendors, but this time they were new. There was a man making leather products, including leather sleeves for cups. He did really nice work.
We stopped to visit Little Cutie the vintage trailer. She was adorable!
I also purchased a bracelet with a magnetic clip from She Shed Crafts by Pam. It was perfect for me!
The midway only had 4 or 5 rides. There was a Ferris wheel, a swing, a ride only children and teenagers should ever get on, and a small child’s coaster. There may have been more, but those were the only ones I saw.
Sunscreen and Water
There are no trees on the campus. You will want sunscreen and a hat. I used sunscreen and clearly missed a few spots.
We brought a bottle of water for each person and guzzled it down. Most of the food vendors had long lines and you won’t want to wait to get water. I highly recommend bringing your own.
There is a tent with a few tables so you can get out of the heat to sit and eat. That was a nice break from the sun.
There’s also downtown Kannapolis which has more shade along the streets.
Navigating the Festival with Groups
Jiggy with the Piggy is easy to navigate with groups and large families. The circular design and large, grassy space near the food vendors made it easy to keep people together. There are also several locations that are easy to identify as “meet us here” spots.
Volunteers in green shirts were everywhere if you needed help.
Final Thoughts about Jiggy with the Piggy
I really enjoyed the festival. There was plenty to do without being overwhelming. The Jiggy with the Piggy website is well done. Someone takes care of it, makes sure it’s updated, and ensures any information you need is available.
Overall, this is the best run festival I’ve attended. It seemed that it was running smoothly with plenty of volunteers and it was well thought-out.
I’ll be heading back down to explore Kannapolis itself. The town is cute, with red brick buildings, interesting shops, and restaurants. There are plenty of outdoor spaces to eat and relax and one of the streets is closed off as a pedestrian way.
We even saw a few blue swings, like you see on front porches. They were all taken, seems they’re a commodity.
The best thing is that there’s a train stop right in front of downtown, making it an easy ride. We were told it’s around $15 from Greensboro. That’s a great deal!