By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
The aroma of hot dogs and chicken wings wafted through the air at the parking lot of Piggly Wiggly in Tarboro Wednesday. Store mascot Mr. Pig waved to customers and passersby, next to a giant shopping cart symbolizing products homegrown in North Carolina.
“It’s just creating excitement and promoting Goodness Grows in North Carolina,” said store owner Kenny Honeycutt. He gave folks a chance to register to win a $25 gift card from Piggly Wiggly while handing out ice-cold Pepsi Colas.
“That (Pepsi) is the only major drink company that originated in North Carolina, in New Bern,” said Tommy Pittman, who has worked for Piggly Wiggly for 41 years. He said Piggly Wiggly started partnering with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture for the event about five years ago.
“We’re just trying to make people aware of what’s grown in North Carolina and to promote Piggly Wiggly,” said Pittman. “All the food’s free. That way they get to try it and it doesn’t cost them anything.”
One of Pittman’s favorite North Carolina foods at Wednesday’s event was Bright Leaf hot dogs out of Smithfield.
“I was raised on them,” said Pittman.
Carolina Packers, home of the Bright Leaf, has been in business since 1941, and their hot dogs are a “Down East favorite,” according to employee Kent Denning.
“This is truly an old-fashioned Southern-style hot dog,” Denning said. “We make them out of beef and pork…It’s completely different than anything you ever tasted.”
Sisters Ladoris and Vernetta Whitaker sampled the Bright Leaf hot dogs at Wednesday’s event.
“Those are the best hot dogs I ever tasted,” said Ladoris Whitaker. “It’s hard to find a good hot dog. That’s par excellent right there.”
Another tasty North Carolina treat was Snookie Sullivan’s Porky’s Place Seasoning Sauce out of Nashville, served up with chicken wings on the grill and Old Waynesboro Country Ham out of Goldsboro.
“You can put it in anything you want to put it in,” said Sullivan. That goes for everything from meat to deviled eggs. The sauce does have a special ingredient, but Sullivan won’t reveal that.
“It took me 12 years to do the formula on it and eight years of competition to prove it out. I’ve been selling it in stores about 15 years now,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said he appreciates the “Got to Be NC Agriculture/ Goodness Grows in NC” program because it helps “small timers” like him to market his products.
Denning appreciates the partnership with Piggly Wiggly, saying, “We support them because they support us.”
“Most of the Piggly Wiggly’s are independently owned, so they fit right in our blueprint,” he said.
While some come to Piggly Wiggly for the food, others come for the atmosphere.
“Friendly people, very nice people. Been dealing with them for years,” said Gwen Lancaster, a customer who came to Wednesday’s event. Vernetta Whitaker agreed.
“Very good service. I’d put them in the A1 category,” she said.