The History of Georgia’s Barbecue Cooking Championship

Rhonda Lamb-Heath
Event Director


BIG PIG JIG® was born in Vienna, Georgia when a group of self-professed gourmets made wagers on who among them could cook the most succulent pig! That year, 1982, those creative people recommended combining a barbecue cooking competition with an established and well-attended arts and crafts fair and the county’s livestock association annual hog show. The merging of events has grown into a festival named twice by the American Bus Association as one of the Top 100 Events in America, three times acclaimed as one of the Top 20 Events in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society, and recognized by Southeast Festivals and Events Association and International Festivals and Events Association with more than twenty five awards, including Best Georgia Festival. BIG PIG JIG® was listed by Travel Agent magazine as one of America’s Top 500 Festivals, touted by Tom Clynes, author of WILD PLANET! as one of the world’s 1,001 Most Extraordinary Events. The contest has also been named to the Discovery Travel Channel’s top ten list of “World’s Best Barbecue Contests” for the past four years. The festival was featured on the Food Network’s “All – American Festivals” plus a one-hour special entitled “The BIG PIG JIG®”. In March of 2004 the festival was awarded the Spirit of Barbecue award from the National Barbecue News proclaiming BIG PIG JIG® Event of the Year. Most recently the BIG PIG JIG® was listed in the New York Times best seller “1001 PLACES TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE” by Patricia Shultz.

Twenty teams competed; cooking whole hogs only, at BIG PIG JIG® in 1982 and $1,000 in prize money was awarded to the top seven contenders. STUMP & SON, a team from Marietta, Georgia won the grand prize on their “train” grill.

Once the smoke cleared, the crafters packed and headed home, and the hogs were “gone to market,” the community recognized it had a winning combination. The setting was ideal, so a fall festival was born. A new site located on Interstate 75 near Georgia Highway 215 in Vienna was purchased and developed for the ever-increasing number of participants. Expansion at the facility has been necessary each year to accommodate the event’s growth.

The success of the festival was demonstrated in 1991 when prize money was increased to $10,000. The festival now has expanded activities to include a parade, sidewalk art contest, crafts and collectibles, Quiz Fest academic scholarship competition, a scholarship golf tournament, local, regional, and national entertainment, plus the Taste of the Jig barbecue taste sampling where visitors have an opportunity to sample the best barbecue in the southeast!

Twenty-nine years after the idea took shape, the contest drew 120 teams cooking over 400 entries of hogs, shoulders, ribs, plus kettles of Brunswick stew, barbecue sauce, and barbecued chicken. The event attracted over 10,000 spectators and required more than 300 judges, 300 volunteers, plus countless pounds of pork. In 2010 the Dooly County Chamber of Commerce awarded more than $16,100 in cash, championship entry fees and trophies to BIG PIG JIG’s top cooks and accommodated huge crowds of festival fun-seekers at the facility now known as BBQ CITY, U.S.A.

More than twenty-five events similar to BIG PIG JIG® have appeared across the Southeast since 1982. Some remain; some do not. Often imitated but not yet duplicated, BIG PIG JIG® remains the southeast’s largest and Georgia’s oldest and OFFICIAL barbecue cooking contest.

Governor Sonny Perdue participated
as a Judge for the BIG PIG JIG®

“Fire it Up” Barbecue Cooking Team
prepares for judging

State Senator George Hooks
participated in the Miss Jiggy Piggy

Myron Mixon, Chief Cook with Jack’s
Old South wows the judge with his
presentation. Jack’s Old South is a
three time World Champion and has
won the BIG PIG JIG® multiple times
in our 30 year history!

Hundreds of trained judges are needed
for the contest each year

One of our more than 130 Cook
teams prepares a huge kettle of
Brunswick Stew for competition!