Editor’s Note: The original article attributed to Bob Garner some early career magician and radio work. That information was about another Bob Garner. We have revised the article and apologize for this error.
By Peter Vankevich
This year’s Fig Fest Aug. 14 will feature UNC-TV host and author Bob Garner as the celebrity fig cake-tasting judge.
Events begin at 1 p.m. in Community Square and judging of traditional and innovative cakes is at 4 p.m. Islanders and visitors are invited to enter cakes in the contest.
In this contest, traditional means a plain fig cake with no icing or other embellishments.
Local restaurants are planning on adding fig specialties to their menus that week.
This year’s event is actually a residual benefit from last year’s Hurricane Arthur.
On July 4 last year, the island was slammed by a category 2 storm causing a power outage and the cancellation of all holiday activities except for the raising of the flag that morning at the school.
Instead of canceling the Fig Cake Bake-Off, a three-year-old addition to the July 4 events sponsored by the Ocracoke Civic and Business Association, the OCBA rescheduled it as a stand-alone event last August, including square dancing with Philip Howard as the caller and evening music by the Ocracoke Rockers.
Della Gaskill won the traditional cake category and Mary Vankevich won in the innovative category in a blind-tasting by judges Gene Ballance, Barbara Adams and Judith Garrish.
After that, the OCBA agreed to launch an official Fig Festival this year when most of the fig varieties have ripened.
OCBA Travel and Tourism Director Sundae Horn secured Garner as a celebrity judge.
“I’m really excited about this,” Garner said in a telephone interview. “There are so many varieties that grow there, which is really interesting. I think a lot of people do not know about the fig tradition on Ocracoke. So we did a feature on our television program.”
That UNC-TV program “Foods That Make You Say Mmm-mmm,” based on his 2014 book of the same name, featured Ocracoke’s fig industry and aired last Sept. 23. It will be rebroadcast in a longer version at 10 p.m. Sept. 3.
Garner’s other recent book is “Bob Garner’s Book of Barbecue North Carolina’s Favorite Food” (2012).
“I’ve always been fascinated with figs,” Garner said about the ubiquitous island fruit. “My grandmother used to have a fig tree at her house in Newport, Carteret County, and I have a vivid childhood memory of climbing in that tree. And I’ve always loved fig preserves.”