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August 28, 2019
It was just over ten years ago when Tampa native Will Wellman was diagnosed with the rare kidney disease Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) at the age of 25. Seemingly overnight, his life changed from graduating college and establishing his career to fighting a debilitating illness. At the time, there were few resources for someone combatting FSGS. The disease left Will’s body riddled with painful symptoms such as lethargy, extreme stomach pain and swelling.
When Will’s kidneys eventually failed, he underwent transplant surgery thanks to a donation from his mother. The surgery was initially successful, but within 24 hours the FSGS returned, overpowering Will’s new kidney. He is now sentenced to a life on dialysis until doctors find a cure.
Enter a group of childhood friends, college football season, a big Green Egg, and a few text messages that would change it all. Chris Whitney, Ryan Reynolds, Wes Tolbert, and Vince Chillura bantered over who could smoke the best ribs. The friendly competition turned into a backyard barbecue complete with live music and a fundraising effort to help Will. With that, the first Tampa Pig Jig was born.
The friends quickly recognized that they had an opportunity to grow the Pig Jig, potentially impacting others affected by FSGS. What began as a backyard barbeque in South Tampa has developed into an annual event featuring great food, family-friendly games and national recording artists such as OAR, Chris Young, and this year’s headliner, Jake Owen. As the name implies, the Tampa Pig Jig is also a serious barbecue competition. More than 50 amateur teams gather as early as 4 a.m. to compete to see who can serve up the best food in each of the four categories. From brisket and pork butt, ribs and the wild card – creativity and flavor reign supreme.
The Tampa Pig Jig now welcomes approximately 8,000 guests each year and has become a critically important fundraiser for NephCure Kidney International, the only nonprofit committed to finding a cure for FSGS and Nephrotic Syndrome. Since its inception, the event has raised more than $4 million for NephCure and has now inspired the launch of Pig Jigs in markets such as Silicon Valley and Colorado Springs.
This year’s Tampa Pig Jig at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park promises to be bigger and better than ever before. Festivities will begin early on Saturday, October 19 with live music from artists such as Camille Trust, Larry Fleet, The Wild Feathers, indie rockers, Dr. Dog, multi-platinum band, LANCO, and finally singer-songwriter Jake Owen.
For those interested in going above and beyond to help ‘cue up a cure for FSGS, there are multiple ways to be involved with the Tampa Pig Jig, including volunteering and sponsoring the event.
Tickets are on sale now and start at just $25 online, in advance and $40 on the day of the event for general admission. This year, the Tampa Pig Jig is also offering a limited number of Beer + BBQ sampling experience for $50 online, in advance. The package includes general admission to the event, plus access to an unlimited craft beer and barbecue sampling experience from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on event day. VIP tickets are also available for $125 online. They include incredible food from and four complimentary drinks, exclusive access to the Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners VIP Tent, and the best view in the park in the Preferred Materials, Inc + Ferman Nissan Front Row. VIP tickets typically sell out, so fans who want the ultimate experience need to act quickly. To purchase tickets, inquire about event sponsorship, become a volunteer or for general event information, visit tampapigjig.com.
Image credit: tampapigjig.com