Wine and Swine
Eight hundred people showed up to last year’s inaugural Wine & Swine, a barbecue cook-off and wine tasting benefit for the First Tee of Augusta. This year, organizers are expecting to double that number, and have made many changes and improvements to reflect what they learned on their first outing.
One of most important things they learned from their first event is that runners get hungry. And you don’t want to make a hungry runner mad.
“Last year, we had the run right at the start of the event and people were really upset because there wasn’t much barbecue left and there wasn’t much wine left because they finished the run pretty late,” said organizer Havird Usry of Fat Man’s Mill Cafe. “So this year, we’re doing the run at 10 o’clock and the event actually kicks off at 11, so those folks can eat.”
Havird quickly added that while those participating in the I Run Augusta 5K get a great deal — the $25 entry ($30 on race day) gets them the race, a T-shirt and entry into Wine & Swine — those who don’t feel like running or walking 3.1 miles before digging in don’t have to.
“All you have to do is show up, pay $20 and you get a punch card for 10 tastes of wine,” he explained. “The barbecue’s unlimited, so they can go around to each team and get a sample cup.”
Wine & Swine started when Havird’s father Brad heard of similar events in other places and decided that the Augusta area needed something to fill the void that typifies this time of year.
“In the springtime, or in the winter and springtime in Augusta, you’ve got the Masters and that’s really it,” Havird explained. “And the barbecue folks that sanction this event to make it an actual cook-off, this is their first event of the year, so it’s actually good for all the professional cooks. They’re just starting to get tuned up for their big season.”
Wine & Swine is sanctioned by the Southern Barbecue Network (SBN) and attracts grillmasters from around the region. Havird says they’re expecting about 26 teams, who will begin cooking the night before with meats that he’ll order to the SBN’s standards through Fat Man’s food vendor, US Foods. The number of teams is one reason they decided to move venues from the GreenJackets Stadium, where the event was last year, to the Train Depot.
Different teams, he said, will have different turn-in times, so food will be available throughout the day. Celebrity judges like Clint Bryant, Austin Rhodes, Liz Hill and possibly Mayor Deke Copenhaver will be on hand and an awards ceremony will take place between 3-4 p.m.
The event isn’t just for professional teams, however.
“We also have a Backyard category for local folks who want to come out and cook,” Havird said, adding that the winner in this category will get a Big Green Egg. “I think last year we had four or five teams and I think that’s grown to about 10 this year. People can still get signed up either on Thursday or even on that Friday. They just have to come down and pay an entry fee.”
Rounding out the event will be food and beer vendors, as well as a DJ spinning bluegrass to go along with the barbecue theme.
Proceeds from the event go to the First Tee of Augusta, which teaches life skills and leadership to kids through the game of golf. It’s a cause near and dear to Havird and his father Brad, as well as sponsors Greig McCully of Fireside Outdoor Kitchens & Grills and Allan Barrett at Toast Wine and Beverage.
“People should come out to this event, No. 1 because it goes to a great cause in the First Tee. I think they have a big future in this city,” Havird said. “Besides that, I really and truthfully think it’s an awesome event as far as all of the food you get to taste, the wine you get to taste and just the atmosphere was really cool last year.” Wine & Swine
The Old Southern Railway Train Depot, 555 Reynolds Street
Saturday, February 16
I Run Augusta 5K, 10 a.m.; Swine Cook-Off & Wine Tasting, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Race: $25, pre-registration; $30, race-day registration. Includes T-shirt and Wine & Swine entry.
Wine & Swine: $20
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