The Pork Festival is an annual event in my hometown that I remember with great fondness. It was a time of classic car shows, parades, carnival rides, concerts on the Court House steps…and, of course, FOOD…pork to be specific.
But my story isn’t actually about the festival itself; my story is about how I became aware that the Pork Festival is a World Famous event.
My family’s vacations typically consisted of camping trips with extended family. Lieber State Park was a favorite haunt of ours, as well as regular trips to the family’s ancestral home of Clayborne County Tennessee, and, usually in late October, the apple orchards around Grand Rapids Michigan where we picked apples and made cider (and occasionally camped in the snow).
I really only remember one vacation involving traveling and sight-seeing with just our immediate family. I was about 10 or so and we spent two weeks traveling around the midwest and plains states sight seeing and camping wherever we ended up. One of the major stops we made was at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
We actually picked a terrible day for the visit because it was dark and stormy and, although we could see the sculpture, it was too dark and cloudy for any decent pictures. After doing the tourist thing, we started heading back to the parking lot. As we were walking toward the truck, the storm clouds finally decided to let go.
At first it was just raining and we kept walking toward the lot, but it shortly turned to pea sized hail and we had a decision to make: Sprint for the truck and try to make it before it got any worse, or turn back and hide out in the book store/gift shop until the hail stopped?
Well…before the family reached a consensus (which, in my family, generally consisted of my Dad telling us what we were going to do), I decided that I was going to make a break for the truck and took off.
Dad decided that discretion was the better part of valor and the rest of the family headed back to the book store.
Well…I chose unwisely because by the time I reached the parking lot, the hail size had increased to marbles with the occasional golf ball thrown in for good measure and was coming down so thick that I couldn’t see far enough to find the truck. The hail was punishing me and I was getting beaten mercilessly while looking frantically for the truck so I did the only thing I could think of to do: I got small on the leeward side of a vehicle to avoid the worst of it and tried to wait it out.
I was only there for a minute or two (which seemed like more like an hour) when the driver of a pickup truck saw me, stopped nearby, had his wife open the passenger door and yelled for me to jump in.
I know that in this day and age, parents everywhere would cringe at the thought of their kid getting into the vehicle of a stranger, but back then, I didn’t even give it a second thought. Sit out here and be bruised and abused by the unrelenting hail, or get in the nice, dry, warm, (and covered) truck? I jumped in and closed the door.
I was very appreciative of the man and his family looking out for a complete stranger and will never forget the small act of kindness that they showed me in offering shelter in the storm.
While we waited for the hail to pass, we had a nice conversation which established that the family was from Canada. I’m sure they told me but I don’t remember what town, or even province they were from. Even their faces and names have faded in my memory through the mists of time, but one thing stands out and I remember it as plain as day.
Now, keep in mind that the county of my birth has lower occupancy than a couple of blocks of any respectable city and the county seat boasts less population than a fully manned US Aircraft Carrier…so, you can probably imagine my surprise when, upon revealing the location of my home, the kind Canadian gentleman that offered me shelter said “Hey, that’s where they have that big Pork Festival every year isn’t it?”
I couldn’t believe it.
Someone from another country had heard of the Pork Festival.
I don’t even recall if he told me how or where he’d heard about it, I just remember that he had.
From that day forward, at least to me, the humble street party offered by my home town in celebration of all things porcine was to be known as the “World Famous” Tipton County Pork Festival.
I really need to try to get back for it someday…especially now because it seems that in recent years they’ve added a bike run as a part of the festivities.