The Ham & Yam Festival began in 1985 as a challenge from Johnston County ham producers to the ham producers of Smithfield, Virginia. As Johnston County is the #1 producer of sweet potatoes in the United States, it is fitting for the festival to honor the agricultural heritage of the area.
The festival now features a barbecue cook-off attracting great cooks from throughout the area to compete for cash prizes.
Attendees can find many varieties of hams and yams at the festival – barbecue from the cook-off, country ham biscuits, hot dogs, sweet potato fries and desserts. The festival hosts the “What’s That Yam Thing?” contest, a favorite for school-aged children given the opportunity to turn sweet potatoes into works of art. Visitors wander through the festival area filled with hundreds of booths occupied by face painters, local non-profit organizations, and vendors selling items including garden flags, handbags, kitchen tools, handmade jewelry and many other arts and crafts. The family event keeps crowds entertained with performances on three stages, children’s games, carnival rides, pig races, and a petting zoo.