Originally created 11/29/03

Food, friends draw crowd Atmosphere keeps fans coming back



SALLEY - Every year, Rebecca Carreon, 63, and her husband, Joe, 58, drive from Harlem to Salley and the World Famous Chitlin Strut for the food and to see their "adopted family."

"We try to get here the Saturday a week before it starts so we can get our spot. It's like a family reunion after you see these people every year," Mrs. Carreon said.

Former Salley Mayor Jack Able started the first chitlin strut in 1966 when he wanted to raise money to replace the town's tattered Christmas decorations, and the event became a post-Thanksgiving tradition.

This year's chitlin strut was almost canceled because of the cost and the hassle of organizing the event. Mayor Bob Salley said the management of this year's event was turned over to Meridian Entertainment Group.

"There's still somewhat of a question mark as to see how we do," Mr. Salley said. "But I do think it is going to continue."

About 3,300 pounds of frozen small intestines of pigs called chitlins, or chitterlings, were bought to cook at this year's event. Mr. Salley said the chitlins have to be thawed Friday afternoon and then cooled overnight. At 6 a.m., 15 gallons of peanut oil is warmed up in large fryers as the chitlins are battered, cooked and served up starting at 9 a.m.

The event now has a hog calling contest, a parade, hundreds of arts and crafts vendors, carnival rides and a strut contest.

"In the strut contest, people walk the way a pig should dance," said Hink Salley, 65, who wore a shirt with a bright pink pig and with the words "Follow me to the Chitlin' Strut" on it. He used to coordinate the annual parade and now works more on the food.

"It's just joyous to see people here from all over have such a good time," he said.

While some people complain about the less-than-appetizing aroma of the chitlins cooking, some people like the taste. Mr. Carreon doesn't use a fork - he just picks up the chitlins and eats them.

"I eat everything but the oink," Mr. Carreon said. "It's the only part that's not fattening."

Wayne Stewart and his wife, Cris, drove six hours from Mountain City, Tenn., to be at the event for the fourth year in a row.

"I might try some chitlins, but last year I couldn't get past the smell," Mrs. Stewart said.

Although Mr. Stewart said he's not a big fan of eating the chitlins, he enjoys the atmosphere.

"We get together and camp and play music. We jammed until 1 a.m. the other night," he said. "Nobody gets out of hand."

IF YOU GO

WHERE: Salley Civic Center and Fairgrounds in Salley, 20 miles east of Aiken on South Carolina Highway 394

COST: Admission costs $4

EVENTS: Chitlin Strut parade, 10 a.m.; hog-calling and strut contest, 2-3:30 p.m.; carnival rides, live entertainment, line dancing, chitlin plates, arts and crafts and pony rides, all day

INFORMATION: Call Salley's town office at (803) 258-3487 or visit www.chitlinstrut.com

Reach Karen Ethridge at (803) 648-1395.



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