Billy Graham dead at 99

Lexington BBQ Capital Cook-Off canceled because of plant fire

LEXINGTON, N.C. -- Barricades and yellow tape still rope off the area behind Lexington's amphitheater where a massive fire ripped through the old Dixie Furniture plant in December.

"It's basically twisted metal and debris at the moment," said Rebekah McGee, executive director of Uptown Lexington.

"There are currently just standing walls at the moment," McGee said. "If something happens and they topple over, there's 50 feet plus ricochet."

It's an area McGee says is now too dangerous to host the city's annual BBQ Capital Cook-Off which is held each spring.

"It's a safety concern," she said. "If someone goes traveling back there, that's where the handicap accessibility is. That's where the bands would go for the stage."

On Wednesday, organizers decided to cancel the two-day barbecue competition which brings in 15,000 to 20,000 people each year.

"It impacts our downtown area, our hotels," McGee said. "It impacts our restaurants. To have to cancel something, it's just heart-breaking."

McGee says last month's massive fire at the old Dixie Furniture plant caused a lot of damage that is nowhere near being cleaned up.

Investigators still haven't determined the cause of the fire.

"They just could not guarantee it would be ready by April 27th and 28th," she said.

McGee says it takes about a year to plan the cook-off and it's too late and too expensive to hold it somewhere else.

"It's not as simple as just picking it up and moving locations," she said.

People who go to the event every year say they're disappointed.

"I'm a little bummed out that I'm not gonna be able to go walk around cause it's so much fun," said Josh Harris, who lives in Lexington.

"It's just a shame that the timing happened when it did and they don't have enough time to regroup," said Donna Gunn, who owns a business in Lexington.

Gunn worked at the plant for eight years and says as much she enjoys the event, she understands why it was canceled.

"I've been back over there to see what's left of it, and it's really sad," Gunn said. "But, I do understand, it's very dangerous back there."

McGee says the cook-off will be scheduled as normal for spring 2019.