Lexington BBQ Festival canceled due to labor shortages

Rick Monk uncovers 36 hickory smoked slow cooked pork shoulders at his family restaurant, Lexington Barbeque, Wednesday night, May 25, 2005 in Lexington, N.C., prior to the dinner rush. North Carolina is known for two distinctive styles of BBQ, the Monk's serve Western style, also know as Lexington or Piedmont, made from the shoulder and has a red, tomato-based sauce. (AP Photo/Lynn Hey)

ASHEBORO — An annual tradition showcasing Lexington-style barbecue will be postponed for a second straight year. The Lexington Barbecue Festival announced Friday that the street festival and pork spectacle would be held next in October of 2022.

“After months of consultation with local officials, sponsors, and official festival restaurants, the 2021 Barbecue Festival set for October 23, will not happen as planned,” according to a statement released by the festival. ‘It was a difficult decision, but one we ultimately concluded was the responsible and necessary decision to make.”

The group blamed labor and supply challenges for the cancellation. “The restaurant owners unanimously decided that they could not meet the enormous challenge of preparing and serving thousands of pounds of BBQ for the festival this year, and we respect that decision.”

According to the festival, Lexington restaurant’s Smokey Joe’s, Lexington Barbecue Center, Speedy’s and Stamey’s issued a joint statement saying, “With our deepest regret, due to supply chain challenges, the current labor shortage, and concerns with the ongoing pandemic, we will not be able to participate in The Barbecue Festival this year. We look forward to celebrating our World Famous BBQ Heritage again in 2022.”

The festival also said concerns about the community’s health also played a factor in the cancellation. “Based on current trends, we feel it would not be in the best interest of our community to invite more than 100,000 people from across the country to converge on our city, when the Delta variant is so prevalent,” said the festival. “We were very much looking forward to the 2021 festival, but now we’ll turn our focus and energy to the 2022 festival.”

Restaurants around North Carolina are suffering from labor shortages. Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC) visited Alamance and Randolph counties this week to highlight the effect of federal government policies on restaurants.