By Travis Sloat
Phoenix Staff Writer
EUFAULA — Jay Hunn said the city of Eufaula had the weather to thank for the jam-packed 29th annual Whole Hawg Festival.
Hunn, the president of the Chamber of Commerce, said the festival experienced its best turnout in years.
“It’s amazing how many people come from all over to attend,” Hunn said. “We had some people fly in from Colorado just to take part in our poker run. I love the whole thing.”
Just under 10,000 people visited the festival, which started Thursday and culminated Saturday with the annual poker run, car show, whole hog cook-off, and rodeo. Entries for the events were high; 16 competed for the cook-off prize, 140 entered the car show and there were 425 entries in the poker run.
Darrell Cowgill, who was cooking for Nichol’s Grocery Store, said he started cooking at 6 a.m. Saturday.
“We’re cooking pork shoulder and ham,” Cowgill said. “We placed seventh last year, and we modified our dry rub for the competition this year. We’re also cooking with more mesquite.”
Cowgill also said the cooler temperatures were a blessing for the event.
“This year it has done well because of the weather,” he said. “We have a lot of people in town. It draws in a lot of business for Eufaula, but outside of that it allows us the opportunity to get together and enjoy the friendship and competition.”
Some of that competition was kept inside the family as Cowgill’s stepson, Justin Walters, fired up a grill of his own for the Number 9 Marina in Eufaula.
Walters said he and his stepfather competed for a family trophy, Suiee the Pig.
“We do a blind taste test with some of our friends,” Walters said. “You can see he won it this year, but I’ve won it the last two times we’ve competed. It’s a family bragging rights thing.”
Walters also said he flew in from Maryland for the event.
“I’m in the military, and I come in when I can,” he said. “I was born and raised here, and it’s always good to come back and see people I went to school with.”
Another change this year was the carnival, which was missing at last year’s festival. Games, rides and even a Ferris wheel were among the novelties, and each was a big hit with kids at the event.
Selina Jayne-Dornan, the mayor of Eufaula, said people were ready to get out of their houses after stormy weather held them at bay earlier in the week.
“I’m having fun, it’s a little humid though,” Dornan said. “I was in the dunk tank last night and it was downright cold. People are happy and excited, and the carnival is a big hit. Earlier the line was a block long just to get tickets for the rides. I really want to commend our Chamber of Commerce for doing such a good job.”
Christal Whittle, who attended the festival with her family, said they drive almost two hours every year just for the Whole Hawg Festival.
“It’s so open and friendly and fun,” Whittle said. It’s nice to get away. I wish we had something like this in our little town.”
Reach Travis Sloat at (918) 684-2908 or firstname.lastname@example.org.