Crowds meet politicians, enjoy barbecue at annual event

by: Torie Wells Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A huge crowd gathered in University City Thursday to meet the candidates running for local office. People shook hands with politicians and enjoyed barbecue.

Mallard Creek Church Barbeque organizers said they made close to 16,000 pounds of barbecue and 2,500 gallons of stew.

It is a lot of food, but for a lot of people, which is what candidates hope for.

The barbecue started 83 years ago as a fundraiser. When candidates saw the crowds, they showed up as well. Decades later, the tradition continues.

Jennifer Roberts and Robert Pittenger are running for Congress in the 9th District. You may have seen their ads on TV. Eyewitness News asked why, in this digital age, the tradition is still important.

"There are people who want to look you in the eye and see if you make a connection," said Roberts, the Democratic candidate.

"I want them to know me and how I can serve them, see what their needs are," said Pittenger, the Republican candidate.

Some voters Eyewitness News spoke with agree.

"Sometimes what you read in the paper isn't exactly how they feel," said Jerrie Parker, a voter.

"Face-to-face has a lot to do with who I vote for," said voter John Teague.

UNC Charlotte political science professor Dr. Eric Heberlig said the event isn't likely a make-or-break event for most candidates.

But it can be very important for the smaller races.

"The type of candidates that people don't seek out information for or see commercials for," said Heberlig.

He said this may be the only way some voters learn who those candidates are.

"I haven't heard of all of them. I have a whole handful of stuff, everyone was giving me stuff," Teague said.

Church barbecue organizers say the money raised will go to local and international missions.