This past weekend was my absolute favorite holiday of the year. Well, I guess technically it’s not really a holiday per say. At least most people don’t recognize it as such even though I think they should. But to me, it’s Father’s Day, my birthday, Christmas, and the opening week of a new NFL season all rolled up into one. It’s the event that I begin eagerly looking forward to starting January 1st every year. I mark the date on my calendar each year the moment that it’s announced. It’s my annual sojourn 20 minutes west to the outskirts of the bustling metropolis of Salisbury to attend fat guy Disney World. That’s right friends, it was Pork in the Park.

It all started 6 years ago on a Sunday afternoon. My wife and I both had the day off and nothing else to do. Some friends invited us to attend this barbeque festival and why would anyone ever say no to that? We took our then 4-year-old daughter and spent the day walking around in the sun, savagely consuming the charred flesh of what was once a host of various farm life. It was one of the happiest days of my life and the start of an annual family tradition. We haven’t missed one since and don’t intend to as long as it continues to be a thing.

Somewhere I have a photograph of the most indelible image from that first visit to the hog mecca. I wish I could find the picture now so I could post it with this story. It was a sweet, beautiful, petite, blue-eyed blonde little girl sitting at a picnic table. In one hand was a massive smoked turkey leg like you would expect to see on King Arthur’s dinner table. She was attacking it like a hungry lion on the haunches of a freshly caught gazelle. In the other hand was a piece of frozen cheesecake on a stick. Per her request it had been dipped in chocolate and covered with sprinkles. The wedge of cake was roughly the size and shape of one of those wooden chucks that are placed under the wheels of a 747 to keep it from rolling while at the gate. She was alternating bites between the two items with no regard whatsoever for what remnants were on her face or dripping down on to her cute little sun dress. The diligence and tenacity with which she ate actually drew a crowd of strangers to watch her. She didn’t even acknowledge their presence as she drifted off to foodtopia. I’ve never seen a happier person before or since.

From that day forth, it was a forgone conclusion that we would attend every year. And we have, without fail for six consecutive years now. Three of which have been with my wife pregnant. I bet not many people can say that.

I’ve learned a few lessons over the years, and now I prepare for the event like the seasoned veteran that I have become. I got up that morning like a child on Christmas day. I started to dress in my official Pork in the Park attire like I was suiting up for battle. First, I put on a pair of cargo pants that I purchased when I was at my post-smoker heaviest. This is to allow for expansion throughout the course of the day. The reason I choose cargo pants is because of the amount of pocket space. Every year prior to this one we attended the event on Sunday which was the last of the 3-day event (For reasons I don’t understand and will forever be irritated about, this year it was only on Friday and Saturday). The point being is that by the last day of the event, all of the food vendors have typically run out of napkins. So by year two, I was packing one of my thigh pockets with paper towels. The advantage to having at least one child in diapers for each of the past several years is that I’m never far from a pack of baby wipes. This is what went in my other thigh pocket…for those occasions throughout the day that required a little more than just a paper towel. Sometimes at an event like this, some improvisational field bathing is necessary, and I am always prepared. In my right front pocket is my cash which I remove from my wallet beforehand so I can keep my wallet safely tucked in my back pocket away from BBQ sauce and saliva. In my front left pocket is my cell phone. Not because I want to be found or communicated with in any way, but simply to be used as a camera for today’s photo ops. My remaining pockets contain Tums, Imodium AD, my Epi pen, and a bottle of water. As I said, I am a seasoned veteran and now you understand the importance of the cargo pants.

The next step in my hog-loving suit of armor is the footwear. First, I put on thick, comfortable gym socks because there is a lot of walking at this event. Next, I put on canvas shoes that can easily go in the washer in case the field of battle is muddy, or more likely, in case I drip sauce. Next, I put on a dark colored long sleeve tee shirt. The dark color is to mask any facial drippings, and the long sleeves are in case both of my gluttonous hands are occupied by deliciousness – this way I can wipe my face hands free with my arm. On top is a dark-colored hooded sweatshirt, also to mask drippings. This is an outdoor event and it is in April, so sometimes the weather can change, hence the need for layers. The hood can be quickly put on in case I get cold or don’t want to be recognized. It’s not at all necessary for the outfit to match since this is the absolute last place in the world I care to make a fashion statement or impress anyone.

Once I’ve suited up like I’m the starting quarterback about to play in the fat guy Superbowl, we load up the van and head west. Me, my 3 daughters, my rapidly expanding gorgeous wife, and the player to be named later who is currently nestled in the uterine hammock. All hungry and eager to get our swine on.

As expected, it was one of the happiest days of the year as we gorged while meandering through a vast crowd at possibly the only place in the world where Honey Boo Boo and her family could travel completely unrecognized. Not because this wasn’t the target audience for that show, but simply because they looked just like almost everyone there.

I did one childish thing while there strictly for my own entertainment that I have to share with you before I wrap it up for the week. While walking through the crowd, off in the distance I saw a family of six approaching us. Each and every family member was clad from head to toe in full camouflage. I just couldn’t stop myself. As they got closer, I separated from my own family and blindly walked directly toward them. My wife watched with her usual befuddlement wondering what the idiot she chose to spawn with was about to do. I continued my path until I got within a foot of this family. I then stopped and jumped back as if really startled. As I did this I said; “WHOA! I’m sorry. I didn’t even see you guys!” They all looked at me like I had 3 heads and had no idea at all what I meant. My pregnant bride pushing a pair of toddlers in a tandem stroller began running in the opposite direction while laughing hysterically and trying to distance herself from her beloved. It was a great day.

Thanks for playing along. May the pork be with you.

Until next week, Syd Nichols

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