By Gary Nager

From its humble beginnings with a crowd of fewer than 500 people when it first began nine years ago, the annual Rotary PigFest has blossomed into one of the premier events in our area year after year.

The 2012 PigFest, held on a “muy caliente” Cinco de Mayo at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church on Cross Creek Blvd., nearly doubled the previous record PigFest attendance of 900, as more than 1,500 tickets were sold, thanks to the efforts of event co-chairs Peter Gambacorta and Robert Garofano of the New Tampa (breakfast) Rotary Club, as well as tremendous support from five other local Rotary Clubs — New Tampa Noon, New Tampa Evening, Wesley Chapel, Temple Terrace and Tampa North.

Although we don’t know precisely how much money, in terms of net proceeds, was raised through ticket and “PigBuck” (used to purchase items during the event) sales to benefit the selected charities of each Rotary club, Gambacorta said, “We definitely took a step up this year.”

Gambacorta, Garofano and company had good reason to be proud.

Despite temperatures that sweltered near 90º, the nine pig-roasting teams put on a great show (including giving out hundreds of free samples), Lee Roy Selmon’s provided delicious BBQ pork & “fixins” for the attendees, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn enjoyed judging the pie-eating contest, the entertainment (including the first-ever PigFest bungee jumping booth) was outstanding and business vendors sold everything from market-fresh veggies to solar heating solutions and legal services. One lucky winner went home with more than $1,000 in the day’s 50/50 drawing and the classic & custom car show featured everything from a $200,000+ McLaren MP4-12C sports car to the “People’s Choice” award-winning classic VW bug.

Last year’s pig-roast-winning team, the Meat Monkeys of St. James Church, did not repeat, as multiple-time former winner Gary Callicoat of Cally’s Sticky Bones BBQ & the “Sir Pigs A Lot” team took this year’s top honors, which. for the first time, was judged according to Florida BBQ Assn. rules.

But, the big winners were still the attendees, the six Rotary clubs and their preferred charities.

To get involved in next year’s PigFest, visit!

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