Gray clouds threatening more rain alternated with blue sky and sunshine for a mixed canopy over the 4th annual Blues, Views & BBQ Festival on Saturday, the second day of the three-day event.
The air in downtown Westport was filled with smoke from 22 barbecue cook-off competitors set up in the lot that houses the weekly Thursday farmer markets, lively music from several blues and zydeco bands at the Levitt Pavilion, and the squeals of delighted children as they watched piglets and Dachshunds race around a track in the Westport Public Library parking lot.
"They were great. In the first race, our team was purple and the purple pig won. I liked the puppies, too. They were really cute. They were jumping through hoops and all that cute stuff," said Remy Sufrin, 6, of Darien.
The pigs had names like Kevin Bacon, Brad Barbeque Pit, Britney Spare Ribs and Lady Hog Hog. The Dachshunds, or "hotdogs," were named Oscar, Nathan -- after the famous Coney Island hotdogs -- Chili and Bun. "You can't have a hotdog without a bun," said race emcee David Feimster of Hot Dog Pig Races.
Hundreds of people braved the threat of rain, which never materialized, to enjoy the event activities, music and food. Bobby Q's Barbeque and Grill offered barbecue fare, Blue Lemon restaurant served fresh grilled corn on the cob and Wild Bill's sold old-fashioned soda pop in stainless steel mug.
"It's great; the food, the soda, the ambiance, the people. You know what else? It's not raining," said Ed Caliri of Newtown, a first-time visitor to the festival. "One of our friends is in the barbecue competition, Smokin' Bones," he said.
"And we've never seen pig races. They were cute," said Carin Jamieson, also of Newtown.
While some people danced to the lively music provided by Otis & the Hurricanes at the Levitt Pavilion, one barbecue competitor appeared to be dancing in time with the music. In fact, he was shaking moisture from his bouquet of parsley, one of only two garnishes that competitors were allowed to use. The other was lettuce.
"And the lettuce can't be colored. It has to be plain green leaf lettuce. A lot of rules," said John Daniels of Madison, a member of team Daniele Appliance, as he carefully removed the stems of his parsley. "This is our first time. We're cooking chicken, pork, ribs and an apple dessert," Daniels said.
Alexis Robinson, 3½, of Westport, stayed on throughout her gentle bull ride, as did her brother Colin, 2. Their mom Andrea Robinson was not as lucky. Andrea's ride was a bit more challenging and she slid off the bull into the padded pit.
Down in the barbecue pit area, Ox Lynch of Westport, a member of the Vuvuzela team, grilled thin slices of yellow and zucchini squash; Greg Hunter of Monroe rubbed his Purple Turtle team's chicken thighs, and Scott Braun of Monroe, a member of team Generation Swine, lunched on a chicken thigh.
"Most barbecue chefs prefer the thigh. They don't dry out as much as the breasts will," Hunter said.
"The skin stays on well and the bone helps keep the moisture in the chicken," Braun said.
As the competitors cooked, the 45 certified barbecue judges from the Kansas City BBQ Society went through orientation. Don Lovely, of Plymouth, Mass., reminded them the criteria included texture, taste and appearance. "I can't tell you how to judge things. Judge the way you think is appropriate for that item," he said.
One of the categories, Chef's Choice, "can be just about anything, absolutely anything," said Colleen Waters, a table captain. They bring the food to the judging table.
"It's a double blind test," said judge Marie Valluzzo of Brookfield.
The judges came from a number of states. "People travel for good barbecue," said judge Wayne Beebe, of Burlington, Vt.
"It's been hard to find really good Kansas City-style barbecue up here so I'm looking forward to what they've got here," said Nathaniel Engelsen, of New Canaan, originally from Florida.