Bulls & BBQ

Heritage Fest an 'awesome event'

Daylong fest features BBQ contest, bullriding

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Dustin Britt holds on tight while riding a bull at the rodeo at the Currituck Heritage Festival Bulls and BBQ in Powells Point Saturday.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Monday, September 18, 2017

POWELLS POINT – The Meador family and many other spectators enjoyed spending their Saturday evening watching the rodeo at the annual Currituck Heritage Festival Bulls and BBQ.

"This is an awesome event," Ashley Meador said with a smile, while seated in one of a set of bleachers packed with hundreds of people at the Currituck County Rural Center.

The Meadors live in Camden, where Ashley is both a homemaker and mother to three young daughters. Her husband, Chris, is a chief petty officer in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Ashley Meador learned about the event on Facebook. A native of northern California's wine country, she said, "I have been to some rodeos and it's not absolutely crazy, but this is a big crowd.”

An official count of how many attended the rodeo wasn't available, but Ashley Meador said she was surprised by the turnout.

"It's more than I thought we would see here tonight," she said.

Chris Meador said the festival was a good opportunity for the family to get out and do something together.

"It's just something good to do on a Saturday, instead of just sitting at home and watching Netflix or watching TV or whatever you've got," he said. 

In another bleacher Saturday evening was Cindy Norvell, who was taking pictures the first rodeo she had ever attended. Norvell moved to Currituck County from Maryland about four years ago.

"I think it's great,” she said of the number of spectators. “That's why I like North Carolina. Moving here from Maryland, it's so different. They do so much more here."

Monique Jones, of Petersburg, Va., said she learned about the rodeo via the Internet.

"My husband enjoys watching the bulls," she said of Mitchell Jones, who was sitting behind her.

The wife was enjoying the rodeo, too, saying, "It's exciting."

"I like to watch the bulls act up when they throw the people off," she said, laughing. “They've got a bad attitude."

Also among the spectators were Kelly Albaugh and her 17-year-old daughter Abby of Chesapeake, Va.

The two were at the daytime part of the event to help raise money for Southern Hope Animal Education and Rescue in Shawboro. Kelly Albaugh was quickly recognizable in the crowd because she was holding her black lab puppy, Lilly.

Abby Albaugh said she convinced her mother to stay and watch the rodeo, noting, "I told her it was a lot of fun." The daughter, who is an equestrian, was referring to having once attended a rodeo in Pennsylvania.

Of what Saturday's event does for Currituck, she said, "I think it's really cool that, like, a small community like this can get together and have a lot of fun."

One plus of this year's Heritage Festival was the weather, which was warm in the daytime but tempered by breezy conditions.

The daytime part of the event offered the sight of old-time tractors, along with horseback riding, a mechanical bull, a simulated rock for climbing and live music.

Enjoying the daytime activities were Gina Valento and her 2½-year-old son Reese Karageorge of Duck.

"I like it because it is a family event and there's so much for the kids to do," Valento said. "The music is great, too."

Mother and son hadn't been to the Currituck Rural Center until Saturday afternoon.

"He likes anything related to the farm," Valento said of the son, who has been learning about agriculture via books and who has also been to a petting farm in Florida.

Just steps away was Ed Lassiter, 71, of Millennium and who was showing off his family's bright red 1951 Farmall tractor. Lassiter returned Saturday after having participated in the 2016 event.

Asked about spectators' reactions to the throwback era machine, Lassiter said, "Some of the middle-aged people don't care a lot for 'em, but the older people and the young people coming up are getting interested in 'em."

The daytime part of last year's Heritage Festival served as host of a barbecue competition in which the first-place winner got to compete in the Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue.

On Saturday, Mark and Sharon Gibbs, of Checkered Flag 500 Barbecue, won the right to go to the 2017 Jack Daniel's event and received a huge trophy for their successful effort earlier in the day in Lower Currituck.

Mark and Sharon Gibbs are from Fawn Grove, Pa., and they participated in last year's barbecuing contest.

"We had a choice of three contests this weekend – and we wanted to come back down here," Mark Gibbs said. "And we love it."

The Currituck Travel and Tourism Office has been involved in helping organize the Heritage Festival the past few years.

Travel and Tourism Director Tameron Kugler late in the afternoon was pleased with how the event was going.

"I just think it has been lovely,” she said. “People seem to be having a great time."