It’s kind of a pig deal.
Like the complementary ingredients and spices in a lip-smacking barbecue sauce, local partners are coming together to make this year’s Hog Wild Week one to savour.
The Ontario Pork Congress has teamed up again with the Stratford Blues and Ribfest for the annual celebration of all things porcine in Perth County.
Representatives got a taste of what’s to come at a media launch Monday at Molly Bloom’s in Stratford, where owner Rob Wigan set out platters of chorizo meatballs stuffed with Perth County bacon, local asparagus wrapped with double-smoked bacon, and a waffle-cut French fries with cheddar and ale bacon dip.
“We wanted to reflect what our community offers,” said Stratford Tourism Alliance marketing manager Cathy Rehberg of the “authentic experiences” at the heart of Hog Wild Week, June 15-21.
A number of local restaurants, including Anna Mae’s, Bijou, Madelyn’s Diner, Mercer Hall, Molly Bloom’s and The Prune, will be featuring signature pork dishes on their menus throughout the week.
The Ontario Pork Congress runs June 17-18 at the Rotary Complex, and president Christine Schoonderwoerd suggested the long-running annual event is much more than a trade show with informative swine education sessions.
It also includes the Hog Jog fundraising 3.5-kilometre and 10-kilometre run/walk on the Wednesday (June 17) evening, which this year will benefit the Ontario Association of Food Banks.
The popular Taste the Best culinary competition, also on the Wednesday, has been transformed into Swine and Wine, pairing “local pork prepared by local chefs” with offerings from Pelleteri Estates Winery. A pork fiesta the next day will feature pork cooking demonstrations by Ontario Pork.
Hog Wild Week continues with the Stratford Blues and Rib Festival June 19-21, and co-chair Stew Laing said there will be local flavour in both the music and the meat.
“We have some fantastic music right in this area, and we’re going to highlight it,” he said.
The Rotary Complex will be the venue for headlining performances on the Friday (June 19) by David Wilcox, as well as local bluesman Stevie T and London-area performer Sarah Smith, followed on Saturday by The Sadies, The Good Family and EB Anderson and the Resolutes.
The bandshell will also feature an impressive list of artists, many of them local, throughout the weekend, including Bill Durst, Aidan and Lea Keeley, the Michael Schatte Band, Kenny Parker Blues Band featuring Jim McCarty, Red Steps, Red Dirt Skinners, The Skyvers, Whiskey Epiphany, Frog and Henry, Matt Weidinge, Steph Martin, Circle 5 and B.W. Pawley & Plum Loco.
Youth performances are also on the lineup Saturday and Sunday at noon, with Dustin Smith & Skyline Studios, and Emma Rouse on Saturday, and students from Coolest Music Store in St. Marys Sunday.
Award-winning rib teams Jack the Ribber, RailRoad Ribs and Kentucky Smokehouse will return to the York Street parking lot, along with a few food trucks to diversify the culinary offerings.
A number of supporting events will run throughout the weekend, including a motorcycle show and shine Saturday, and on Sunday an ACES vintage car show, as well as an antique tractor show.
Sunday will also feature the third annual Rhythm and Bruise roller derby bout at the William Allman Memorial Arena, with the low-contact bout at 11 a.m., and the full-contact one at 2 p.m.
New this year, inspired by Wilcox’s popular song River Boat Fantasy, is the Stratford River Boat Fantasy Blues Cruises on the Avon River, featuring solo performances by Stevie T, Yeager and special guests from the bands throughout the weekend. Each cruise is 30 minutes and can host as many as 14 people along with the artist. Cruises can be booked through the Avon Boat House.
“That’s a really unique opportunity that Stratford can offer that other communities can’t,” said festival promoter Nathan McKay.
Also new this year is the Canadian Southern Barbecue Weekend Warrior competition on the south side of the York Street parking lot Sunday morning, where amateur and professional chefs who pre-register with a $100 fee can bring their own barbecue and smoker and compete for cash and prizes.
Professional barbecue judges will decide on the winner, and members of the Team Canada BBQ team will also be on hand for the event.
The fact that Father’s Day (June 21) falls within the Blues and Ribfest was not lost on organizers.
“It might be one of the most ultimate Father’s Days that has happened in a long time in Stratford,” said McKay. “You have beers, cars, motorcycles, ribs, music. There’s so much going on.”