SCOTLAND NECK — Sylvan Heights Bird Park held its annual Birds, Brews & BBQ Saturday with a large turnout of guests despite a rainy evening.

“The weather was definitely on our minds in the days leading up to the event, and we were so pleased to see that so many people were willing to come out and have fun with us despite the rain,” Media & Communications Coordinator Katie Lubbock said. “It shows that we have a great community that supports what we’re doing.”

Lubbock said the event is a fundraiser for the bird park’s education and conservation programs. The proceeds from ticket sales, sponsorships, the 50/50 raffle, cook entry fees and People’s Choice voting contribute support for the care of the birds at Sylvan Heights and other programs that educate visitors and students about the importance of conservation, she said. A secondary purpose the event serves is to showcase local talent, Lubbock said.

“Barbecue is such a tradition here in eastern North Carolina, and we have some phenomenal teams that come out and compete every year,” she said. “The same goes for the ‘Brews’ side of the event — we want to make people aware that craft brewing is thriving in eastern North Carolina and that we have some incredibly talented brewers here who are making great beer.”

Karen Parker, events coordinator, provided a list of teams for the competition:

• Big Bad Wolf — Scott Hall and Bruce Daniel

• Big Head Barbecue — David Edwards and Rock Edwards

• Sassy Sows — Cassie Peters

• Boondocks BBQ — Brad and Heather Lilley and Steve and Beth Bailey

• Backyard Bubba — Kenneth Clark

• Look “N” for a Cook “N” — Thomas Thompson, Matthew Thompson and James Rhome

• Etowah Smoke — Doug and Suzanne Almond

• Sticky Bands — Dustin Foote and Nick Nees

• Bumblebee’s Pit Shack — Brian Hicks and CT Hasty

Big Head Barbecue took third place, Boondocks BBQ took second and also the People’s Choice award, and Big Bad Wolf took first.

Daniel said he is the owner of Big Bad Wolf out of Roanoke Rapids and said it was his first time coming to the event.

“I like it and had a good time so far,” he said. “I didn’t know it [park] looked this nice. I’ve never been here, but it’s nice.”

Hall said, “It was a fun event for a great cause! We enjoyed our time there and certainly look forward to cooking for the event again.”

Lubbock said the event was 10 years in the making and started off as a chili cook-off, but in 2014 changed the event to a barbecue cook-off called “Pig in the Park” as a way to highlight local cooks’ talent. After launching a separate craft beer event called “Birds & Brews” in 2016, park staff soon realized the two events were best paired together, she said. Thus, Birds, Brews & BBQ was born in 2018 and has become a popular event, Lubbock said.

With the event typically held in March, it sold out weeks early in 2020, she said. However, with the rise of COVID-19 restrictions taking place three days before the event, it was canceled, Lubbock said.

“Conditions weren’t much better for large events a year later in March 2021, so we decided to postpone until October and make it part of a big celebration for the park’s 15th anniversary,” she said.

Lubbock wanted to thank beverage sponsors for the event, such as Carolina Eagle Distributing, for providing a selection of North Carolina craft beers and also other craft brewers attending the event:

• Koi Pond Brewing Company

• Quick Trigger Brewing Company

• Weldon Mills Distillery

• Hook Hand Brewery/Blackwater Cider

• Pitt Street Brewing Company

Weldon Mills, based out of the Town of Weldon, is no stranger to events with its lineup of award-winning spirits.

Co-owner Bruce Tyler set up a booth inside the park’s Toad Hall along with the distillery’s tour director, Sarah Hardy, serving a mix of their Weldon Orchards Caramel Green Apple that is a Gold Medal Winner at the 2020 East Coast Craft Spirit Awards.

“I think folks are having fun, I can smell a lot of great barbecue in the air, and there are great spirits and great beer,” Tyler said. “You can’t help but have fun. A little rain is not going to dampen anybody’s spirits. We’re ready to party.”

Another vendor at the event was the Rock Museum in Scotland Neck, where Barbara Jenkins and her son, 6-year-old Liam, were sifting through a collection of rocks.

“I think this is a lot of fun,” Barbara said. “It’s my first time at the event, and I’m glad we came here.”

Sponsors for the event include:

• Anchor Insurance Agencies

• ElectriCities of North Carolina

• H&R Block of Scotland Neck

• Kim Mallard, CPA

Lubbock said Sylvan Heights plans to return to its normal event schedule next year, which Birds, Brews & BBQ is marked for March 12.