Thursday, December 14, 2017
Opinion

Hooper: Tampa Pig Jig expands its recipe for success

TAMPA

Start with various forms of barbecue, add some heaping helpings of spirited competition, toss in a few cups of trash talking and mix vigorously with college football, live music, friendship and a good cause.

Itís a recipe thatís yielded some tremendous results for the Tampa Pig Jig, so much so that organizers have decided not to limit the fun to one day in October.

Of course, they had me at barbecue.

But maybe truffles are another ingredient because the annual Tampa Pig Jig has mushroomed from a humble beginning to an amazing event since it launched in the back yard of Vince Chillura in 2011.

In an effort to help friend Will Wellman, Chillura, Wellman and some of their other childhood friends brought the list of fun together. The aim was to help Wellman, who had been diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, or FSGS, a debilitating kidney disease.

The turnout proved substantial. The love proved palpable. Iíd say the food proved terrific, but I didnít get an invite to the inaugural Pig Jig. No worries. Youíre forgiven.

"People had such a good time, we thought we were on to something," Chillura said. "A lot of folks wanted to know if they could compete in the competition the next year. We could tell we had a good idea. We just needed to tweak it and hone it."

So they added more cooks, more sponsors and shifted to a bigger event space ó the old Tampa Armature Works field now being converted into a food hall. It eventually outgrew that area and found itself in need of Tampaís top outdoor venue, where itís been since 2014.

All the success of the recipe was on display last week at Curtis Hixon Park. Even under overcast skies that eventually gave way to a fall storm, more than 8,000 people strolled the pit, sampling all forms of barbecue ó the bacon-wrapped, stuffed chicken was a surprising favorite ó while bands performed on a stage and people under tents tuned in to football on big-screen televisions.

But again, why stop at one day?

Chillura said local Realtor and CPA Jamie Whitney, wife of co-founder Chris Whitney, teamed with EventFest senior vice president Maiken Stefany and hit upon an idea that would bring together individual supporters of the Pig Jig on a more regular basis. Now the Smoke Show Social Club.

"We were trying to make it a year-long event and bring in a membership component so we could get more individuals involved as sponsors," Jamie Whitney said.

For $500 for individuals or $1,000 for a couple, people can reap the event benefits that typically go to corporate sponsors ó all-you-can-eat access at the Pig Jig ó and attend related events during the year.

I know what I want for Christmas.

"We have several events planned to, ĎGet the band back together,í and get people excited for the next Pig Jig," Chris Whitney explained.

Yet itís more than a social club, because the mission of supporting NephCure Kidney International and raising awareness of FSGS is never far away. One event earlier this year brought together members for a "summer supper" not only to break bread but to learn more about FSGS research advancements from an expert.

"Itís a fine line between too much information and too little information," Jamie Whitney said, "But we had an entertaining speaker who could get across the key points during that time frame and still leave room for members to socialize.

"Itís a good formula."

Maybe the best aspect of the formula is itís not only raising awareness, but itís bringing together families impacted by FSGS. Itís fairly rare disease so families can sense theyíre all alone. HIPAA laws prevent doctors from connecting patients, but the Pig Jig cooks up a support network where the medical community couldnít.

More than 20 families met at this yearís event and enjoyed good food while comparing notes, sharing contact information and leaning on each other.

"I think getting together 20-plus families was a huge win for us," Chillura said. "Weíre looking to continue and expand that and hopefully double the amount."

Chillura and Whitney and really everyone involved agree itís amazing how far the Pig Jig has come since its simple inception. The results are more often found in smaller cities, but the success of these dedicated community leaders is one of the reasons I call Tampa the biggest small town in America.

Thatís all Iím saying.

Comments
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesdayís special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Tax cuts arenít worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts arenít worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Floridaís juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scottís administration was defensive and obtuse. So itís welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17