Last Thursday I had the great pleasure of attending the 80th Annual Mallard Creek Barbecue. I've written about the event before. It is a must-do on the political calendar in Mecklenburg County each year. The weather was beautiful and the cars lined up for miles to drive through to pick up their boxed lunches or to park and enjoy the gathering crowd.
Diners had a choice of two lines - political and not political. Most chose to walk through the political line. It's a tradition. Candidates and their supporters stand and shake hands and pass out campaign literature. Pictured at left is Charlotte's Mayor Pro Tem, Democratic National Committeewoman and Charlotte City Council At-Large candidate Susan Burgess. Susan should have no trouble at the polls on Tuesday
The event started back in 1929 when men of Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church held a meeting to decide how to raise money to pay for their new Sunday School building. A pig had been barbecued for the meeting and it was decided that later that year they would have a gathering of the church members and surrounding community and sell barbecue to raise money. Proceeds in the first year were about $89. A plate of barbecue and Brunswick Stew today costs $9.
The church is not located on the property where the event is held, but there are several structures, fields and a new well-lit baseball diamond. Throughout the year local community groups and boy scout troops hold meetings and other events there. I'm sure a large part of the building space is used to store all of the tables and chairs.
One of those buildings, which is unfortunately not shown in this picture is the Mallard Creek Community House - the old Mallard Creek School. It was built by the men from nine Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church families in 1920 and served as the local school for eleven years. When two larger schools were built in neighboring communities the state decided to sell the property. Since church members had built the school, the state allowed the church to buy the building and land once it was no longer in use.
Developers started building out the Mallard Creek area about 15-20 years ago. Prior to that time Mallard Creek was home to dairy farms and cotton fields. Church members grew much of the produce and raised the pigs in the early years. Today the ingredients for the stew are purchased in bulk, and shoulders, butts and hams are cooked instead of whole pigs. The cooking starts about a week before the day of the barbecue. I used to live less than a mile from the field and could smell the pigs cooking. It wasn't easy to go around with my mouth watering for an entire week and by the time the day of the barbecue event had arrived I was ready to eat my share of pulled pork and stew.
I'm not sure when the event turned into a political gathering, but I have been attending for over 20 years to stand in line and hand out literature for my mother and other political candidates. If you look to the left in this picture you can see the line of candidates - at least, you can see their backs. It is a sight to behold as they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Democrats and Republicans side-by-side. Children seem to enjoy walking down the line getting as many stickers as possible plastered to their shirts and hats.
The flowers on the tables are fresh and the bread gets a little steamy sitting in the bags out in the sun. I usually don't eat any of the sliced white bread since the plate is piled pretty full of food already. I can't imagine setting up all the tables and chairs for the event. There have been years where they were jam packed and when I first started going we would eat in the Community House, especially when it rained. I haven't been back in the old school for many years.
October can be tricky when it comes to weather. This year we had sunshine and warm temperatures. In the evening the crowd is mostly local residents and the politicians and press crews have all gone home. I believe it was at some point in the 80s when the covered eating area was built. Rain doesn't keep people away, but fewer choose to stay and eat and politicians don't typically stand out and greet folks in line. On cold nights and rainy days, this covered area is where many people gather to eat.
There is a covered drive-thru lane and flagged roping to guide cars in and out of the lines and parking areas. The field where volunteers park is usually full of cars. It takes hundreds of volunteers and paid help to pull off this event.
After passing by the long line of candidates and standing in a line of folks hungry for barbecue we finally make it into the serving house. The ladies of the church pile the pork, slaw and applesauce onto the plates and top each with a bowl of the best Brunswick Stew you will ever eat. It is thick, hearty and seasoned perfectly. If you look carefully in this picture you will catch a glimpse of former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot.
This is worth the weight. No, I didn't spell that one wrong.
Where there are politicians there will be press. I can't believe there are candidates who actually don't go to this event. It doesn't matter whether it is in your district or not. You don't want to miss an opportunity to be in front of this many print and television crews.
In 2006, the event was packed with reporters there to see former House Speaker Jim Black. Our own Will Cubbison stood in the candidate line representing Larry Kissell while Larry was in front of the cameras. He had just traveled over an hour from another event just to be at the Mallard Creek Barbecue. I can't believe I missed the event last year. I imagine it was packed during a presidential election year that also saw competitive races in North Carolina's 8th District and for the U.S. Senate seat held at the time by Elizabeth Dole.
Some of you may think the press was there to see Anthony Foxx, the man who hopefully will be the first Democratic Mayor of Charlotte in the past 22 years. Anthony is wonderful and will make a great mayor.
....but I don't think the press was there to see Anthony.
I think they were there to see Patsy Kinsey, who just so happens to be my mother. Patsy (Mom), who ran an energetic campaign against The Charlotte Observer this year, won in the primary and showed up to support her fellow Democrats. She is seen here with conservative Republican Tariq Scott Bokhari who is running for an At-Large seat on the City Council. This is the first time the two have been pictured together since Patsy (Mom) handed him his fanny on a platter in 2007. Tariq, who ran a positive, issue-oriented campaign in 2007 is using that experience and name recognition to run again this cycle...only this time he's smart enough to not run against my mother.
All kidding aside, if you have a list of things to do before you die, you might just want to add attending the Mallard Creek Barbecue to the list. I'll be there next year, so give me a shout if you plan to attend and I'll save you a seat at the table.