Porkin’ in the USA

Porkin in the USA towel
Swag from the barbecue competition given to volunteers

October means several things around here.  The weather gets cooler.  It also starts to rain again although its been unusually dry around here lately.  Then there is Octoberfest.  I’ve written about it before.  Every year around mid-October the town of Cleveland holds a big barbecue competition downtown.  Winners go on to participate in the World Barbecue Competition in Memphis.  There is also a street fair to go along with it.

Once again I volunteered to assist the judges.  The work mostly involved clearing tables and cleaning the rooms where the judging happened.  As a perk the officials give free food to those who help out.  Thus I had some of the best barbecue seafood, chicken, ribs, pulled pork and beans of my life.  Cooking really is an art form.  In the hands of a skilled chef, otherwise bland piles of dead animals can turn into pure gold.   The South is the home of American barbecue and it shows.  Down here, they take it seriously and the results are fantastic.  Its one of the major perks of living in this part of the country.

Most folks around here probably see things differently.  Octoberfest is one of the few times in the year when people gather and do something not related to Delta State or any of the other schools around here (with the Crosstie festival in April being the other).  Sure there’s Otherfest, the big music festival held every year on the edge of town.  However you have to be in to live music.  Plus most of the crowd is young, which means lots of students.  So its understandable why some people would not be enthusiastic about it.  The young and hip side of Cleveland, such that it is, is not for everyone.

Bruce Pigsteen and John Mellenpork
Bruce Pigsteen and John Mellenpork chillin’ at Octoberfest 2015

In the past I’ve written about how cool Octoberfest is.  Within the context of Cleveland it certainly is a great event.  There is literally nothing else like it any other time of the year.  The Crosstie Festival is similar, but much smaller and there is no barbecue.  Its all about art and jazz.  Certainly there is plenty going on related to Delta State, especially in August and September.  However while the university is a big part of life around here, Cleveland is not entirely a college town.  So not everyone wants to attend the Pig Pickin’ or the football games (especially when Mississippi State and Ole Miss are playing – you can’t compete with the SEC around here).  But Octoberfest is a neutral event and held right in the center of town between the white and black parts of Cleveland.  There’s food vendors, beer, and live music.  Arts and crafts vendors line the walking trail.  Even though not everyone knows someone on a barbecue team it doesn’t really matter.  People who live around here can walk around with their friends and enjoy the festival.

In other words Octoberfest is a release.  Cleveland can be very dull at times.  Its not that there’s nothing to do, its that the things to do are limited and repetitive.  On any given Friday night I can go to Hey Joe’s and drink, go to Delta Meat market to eat and drink, maybe go to a restaurant for and hour or two and … well that’s it.  It gets old, especially when your not very sociable in the first place.  To be fair I have a strong preference to have pizza and go grocery shopping on Friday which predates my move to Mississippi.  All the same the variety of social activities around here is not great.  Partly for that reason people tend to stick together because the only other option is to sit quietly at home watching Netflix.  Not everyone wants to do so and in any case it gets old too.

Such is life in a small town.  Still I’ve managed to carve out an existence.  You have to in order to survive.  Being part of Delta State helps immensely.   So too does having a career in library information technology.  A lot of professors can’t easily find a job elsewhere.   But that’s how it goes in academia.  You go where the work is.  Life in Cleveland has its ups and its downs.  Soon the damp cold of Mississippi winters will take hold.  In the meantime us Clevelanders will bide our time waiting for the next festival.


Article by Mike

Mike is the Head of Discovery Services for the Delta State University Library. He has lived in Cleveland since May 2013.

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