Kouts | When gourmet chocolate and cheesecake-maker Jayne Baker heard about the Hammie Award at the annual Kouts Pork Fest, she knew what she had to do.
“I said ‘we’re goin’ for that,’” said Baker, of Aunt Jayne’s Confections, of Valparaiso. “I like to compete — that’s just how I am.”
Baker’s entry — a bacon pecan cheesecake dipped in chocolate on a stick — won a Hammie for “best pork product” at the 37th annual Porkfest Saturday.
Among the highlights of the much-loved hometown festival dedicated to everything porcine were contests for pig calling, porkburger eating, and guessing the weight of the pig, who traditionally snoozes the day away in a pen behind the information booth.
Stephany Lockett, vice president of Kouts Festivals and Events, said the event “brings the community together.”
“Kouts was once the hog capital of the world,” said Lockett. “We want to carry on the tradition of the town.”
Besides 80 vendors hawking everything from duck calls to candles, fest visitors also enjoyed a 5K run walk, a morning parade, kids’ inflatable games, a beanbag toss tournament, live entertainment, and plenty of pulled pork, pork burgers, and pork chops.
Marilyn Thorn and Bobby James, with Thorn’s 10-month-old grandson Skylar Steele, enjoyed a lunch of Birky’s pulled pork sandwiches in the air-conditioned comfort of Mulberry Tree Ministries on Main Street.
“It’s a fun little fest,” said James, of Rensselaer.
Thorn, of Valparaiso, uses the weekend to visit family in Kouts.
“It’s a good family day,” said Thorn. “We’ll check out the booths then go out to the family farm and visit with my relatives.”
The festival is one of the last opportunities of the summer for folks to indulge in “typical fair food” like elephant ears, pierogis, fried treats, and lemon shake-ups, said Sue Ellen Boomer, president of Kouts Festivals and Events.
“It’s good, fattening food,” said Boomer, sporting a pink “Pigalicious” event t-shirt.
At the Kouts Fire Department, volunteer firefighters flipped pork chops and corn on the cob on large charcoal grills for the department’s annual pork chop dinner, which raises nearly $3,000 annually for fire equipment upgrades.
“It’s the best deal in town,” said Don Sutter, fire chief.
Baker was a bit surprised that she walked away with a Hammie, given this was her first time at Porkfest.
“I get a little crazy with my flavors,” said Baker. “But I knew what I had was good.”