Local Politicans Chew Fat At 38th Annual Pig Roast & Political Rally
by James Coulter
Normally, when people think of pork and politics, they think of pork barrel spending. However, here in Polk County, it’s been a long running tradition for local politicans to chew the fat with constituents during the Annual Pig Roast & Political Rally in Haines City.
This year’s event was hosted poolside at the scenic Balmoral Resort in Haines City. Normally, the event is hosted in August at the Lake Eva Event Center; however, due to COVID-19, the date was pushed to late September with Balmoral hosting the event at their bar and grill.
Nearly a dozen politicans set up booths near the pool to distribute campaign material and to talk with local constituents. Whether you were Team Trump or Biden, every politician of every political affiliation had a chance to join in the camraderie and dinner.
Speaking of dinner, true to its name, the pig roast included a barbecue dinner catered by Balmoral Resort. Attendees could pig out on barbecue chicken and pork, along with other fixings like green beans, potatoes, and yeast rolls.
Sam Killebrew (R), is currently running for re-election to the Florida House of Representatives to represent District 41. He has been attending this event for the past 12 to 14 years, even long before he ever ran for political office. Since running for office, he has proudly attended for the past four years.
“Haines City is a great community,” he said. “[The Pig Roast] is good and gives us a chance to talk with people and [discuss] policy that we believe in, and they get to tell us what our concerns are. So it turns out good for all of us.”
Killebrew was especially pleased at the turnout this year, even in spite of the current COVID-19 crisis. He was glad that the govenor eased on mandates concerning masks in public, and he’s expecting the economy to keep going strong moving forward.
“Tonight’s event is great,” he said. “I cannot complain at all. I got to see a lot of people. People I didn’t know, people I knew. I met my opponent for the first time, he seemed like a nice guy. So it was good. I was happy with it.”
Darren Soto (D), running for re-election to the U.S. House for Florida’s 9th Congressional District. He also appreciated the great turnout, and especially with how everyone did their best to stay safe with social distancing and mask wearing.
Being able to communicate with constituents at events like this is what he loves most about the Pig Fest. Especially in uncertain times like this, it is important to reach out and make sure everyone is doing well for himself, he said.
“It is great to meet up with a lot of people you have not seen for a long time,” Soto said. “We need events like this to meet with constituents. Without talking to folks, whether it is a labor community, business community, environmental community, or some of the many other different groups who work, you can lose touch.”
Lana Stripling, Director of the Northeast Polk County Chamber of Commerce, loved how many people turned out for the event. She especially appreciated how Balmoral was able to host it on such short notice, with less than a month to prepare, she said.
“Balmoral Resort has done a fantastic job,” she said. “We had a great turnout tonight. So the weather is perfect, and it is Chamber of Commerce weather, and we are loving it.”
For the past three decades and counting, the Pig Roast and Political Rally has allowed local residents to meet with their elected officials and with running candidates to discuss the politics of the day. The support from the local community has allowed it to continue growing strong, she said.
“Our business members are great supporters, and they support us in our events,” she said. “Being able to connect them with possibly helpful for our businesses, and also the canidates being able to talk with them and the people can come out and talk with them and show their concerns and see where they stand.”