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A Love of Pork Roll Leads to Rival Festivals in New Jersey

Don't mess with a New Jerseyan's pork roll.

Facebook: Pork Roll

Pork roll isn't commonly found outside of New Jersey, but within the Garden State, its passionate following resembles something akin to a religion. Also known as "Taylor Ham," after its developer, John Taylor of Trenton, N.J., pork roll is a processed meat product that is usually sliced, then pan-fried or grilled, and eaten on a sandwich.

In Trenton, the birthplace of pork roll, love of the product has sparked a fight over who owns the right to hold a pork roll festival, according to NPR. This will culminate tomorrow, May 23, when two rival festivals dedicated to the meat, one billing itself as the upstart "Trenton Pork Roll Festival" and the other simply as the "Pork Roll Festival" occur simultaneously in Trenton.

Maggie Kowalski, who was crowned Miss Pork Roll Queen at the inaugural Pork Roll Festival last year, describes the taste as "like Spam meets bacon — but with a whole other set of spices that we don't know anything about."

The inaugural festival was hosted at a bar and restaurant called Trenton Social. Owner T.C. Nelson described its success — over 4,000 people showed up to celebrate the meat product — as "overwhelming."

That's when things took a turn: Nelson and Scott Miller, producer of the festival, began bickering over where the following year's festival would be held. Miller said that Nelson's restaurant was too small to accommodate the crowds. Nelson disagreed, and wanted to keep it at Trenton Social.

Now, Nelson has his own pork festival, the Trenton Pork Roll Festival, to compete with Miller's. Nelson's will be held at his restaurant from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; tickets are $4 for general admission. Miller, in the meantime, is holding the Pork Roll Festival at a local park from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Tickets to that event are $5.

Miller's lawyer sent Nelson a cease-and-desist but it looks like, at least for now, that both festivals will occur tomorrow simultaneously.