As the smell of chicken bog filled the air in the early morning hours, thousands of people flocked to downtown Loris for the 42nd annual Bog-Off Festival Saturday.
While parents sipped sweet tea and chowed down on freshly made chicken bog, corn dogs, barbecue and whatever else filled their plates, kids bounced around inside inflatables, fed goats at the petting zoo or got their face painted.
“It was perfect,” Mayor Todd Harrelson said. “Perfect weather. The perfect storm I guess you could say for the weather and all the weather coming together and everybody wanting to get out and do something for a change.”
With the festival returning to normal protocols after COVID-19 forced a smaller-sized festival the year prior, the streets of downtown Loris were filled with people, classic cars, food trucks and vendors selling anything from holiday themed wreaths to, of course, chicken bog.
Bog-off goers also made their way in and out of stores and restaurants that were open on the streets lined with vendors. Ritchie’s Eatery was one of those restaurants, located on Main Street near Railroad Avenue. Owner Richard Ward opened up the restaurant Saturday as a test run ahead of their grand opening later this week.
“I’m either really brave or really stupid, one of the two,” Ward said.
Richie’s Eatery had a limited menu at the festival, complete with chicken bog, shrimp n’ grits and loaded country potatoes, which are filled with a little bit of bacon, ranch and cheese.
“It was just a little taste of what we were getting ready to serve,” Ward said.
Richie’s Eatery is just one of the several places that are either opening or have already opened in recent weeks, making for an exciting time in Loris.
“We got a lot of things happening in Loris right now,” Ward said. “We’ve got new stores coming. We got a lot of updating, upgrading, a lot of different merchants are working on their buildings. I think with what we’re getting ready to do now, over the next year, we’re going to see a lot more shopping in Loris.”
Throughout the day, Harrelson said friends and strangers came up to him to say how great the festival was going and how happy they were that things were back to normal.
“That’s what makes it all worthwhile,” Harrelson said. “You put in a lot hard work. All the men and the women that really pushed to do this and we all get out here together. To hear somebody say this is great or tell us good job is one of the coolest parts of being mayor.”
Off from the main stage and across from the petting zoo and inflatables, festival goers could sample chicken bog from contestants who signed up to participate in this year’s Bog-Off. That bog would also be sampled by a panel of judges who would determine the two best bowls of bog at this year’s festival.
Before the 18 contestants who took part in the Chicken Bog Cooking Contest, festival goers gathered around the main stage near Casey and Meeting streets to see who was the best at clucking like a chicken and who could chug a bottle of original Mountain Dew the quickest. Adults, and children, lined up to do their best chicken impression and take part in the Mtn Dew Guzzlin’ Contest.
Karl Eversmeyer and Nicholas Tweedie took home the chicken clucking crown in the adult and youth category, respectively. Ebony Heron was the fastest kid in town to down a bottle of Dew. Drew Stevenson beat out over a dozen adults who chugged a bottle of Mountain Dew.
After the chickens had clucked and the Dew had been drunk, it was time to see who had the best bog.
Doug Doyle took home the People’s Choice trophy and placed second in the overall competition.
Chris Conner was crowned the winner of this year’s Bog-Off. It was the second time that Conner had taken home the title, last happening in 2018.
“That’s five hours of hard work right there,” Conner said.
While Conner wouldn’t elaborate on any special ingredient that he uses, he did say he changes the recipe every year and he’s at least won or placed in three of the four years he has competed.
“The reason I didn’t win the second time is because I cooked it just like I did the first time,” Conner said. “Maybe they recognized it from the year before so I changed it up.”
The winner of the Bog-Off not only gets a trophy but also $750 and a Carolina Cooker 14-quart cast iron pot and burner stand. The first thing Conner is going to cook in his new pot? Well, it’s not chicken bog.
“Probably some bacon so I can season it,” Conner said. “Season it with bacon grease. That’s the only way you do cast iron: Bacon grease.”
As the day winded down and festival goers gathered around the main stage to listen and dance to artists including Trey Calloway and Trent Tomlinson, Ward was grateful for those who participated in making this year’s festival be a success.
“Thank you for coming. Thank you for being a part of it,” Ward said. “We really appreciate it and we hope we make our community proud with what we’re trying to do.”