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Jessie Crawford, 27, waits tables at Pop's BBQ, a southern style barbecue restaurant that draws a crowd of tourists and locals seven days a week.

The smoke you can taste

story by Caitlin Penna

Ash escapes from the smoker as Adam Ferguson opens a small metal door to add wood to the fire that will cook barbecue, brisket, and ribs until the meat falls of the bones. The meats cook for up to 22 hours a day, some wrapped in foil to hold in flavor while others cook on the open grill.

Adam opened Pop's BBQ eight years ago after his wife's grandfather – known as Pops – gifted him the smoker. The restaurant sits at the base of the hills flanking Highway 801 in Morehead and operates from March to November. Adam says he served 27,000 pounds of Boston butts for pulled pork, 16,500 pounds of brisket, and 2,550 slabs of ribs this year. As he preps for one of the last all-you-can-eat catfish specials a week before Pop's closes for the season, he's filled with a "mix of emotions."

"Theres always a certain amount of nervousness," he says. "Having staff, and if they'll find a job and not come back, but most come back. That gives me some type of hope."

He, his wife, and their two sons just moved into a new house and they'll have a chance to settle in without juggling the same hectic restaurant schedule. The team rushes around the kitchen where tapping silverware and sizzling oil in the fryer, are momentarily interrupted by the announcement of a new order ticket as it's added to the lineup. Locals and tourists from all over come to enjoy a brisket reuben, catfish filet, smoked pulled pork platter, or a deep fried mini apple pie.

"Everything they got here is good. I like the shrimp and beer cheese," David Mayes says. "I couldn't be fonder of the beer cheese!"

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Danny Glenn, 25, mixes pulled pork with barbecue sauce at Pop's. The restaurant served up roughly 46,000 pounds of meat in the form of pulled pork sandwiches, brisket reubans, ribs and other menu favorites this year.

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Pop's owner, Adam Ferguson opened eight years ago. Locals didn't think his business idea would work, but Adam has made an impact on the community in Morehead. The smoker runs around the clock. Some meat is wrapped in foil, others are laid on the open grill, as they are smoked for up to 22 hours at a time. Adam uses this method to keep the smokey flavor in his meats.

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Adam has full-time and part-time staff that typically come back the following year.

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Mike Winer, left, a Pop's BBQ regular, greets Adam. Adam fosters the values of community and family at Pop's. "Sometimes he comes in for five minutes to talk, sometimes it's 30 minutes," says Adam.

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Adam has a good friend, Zach, who runs a taxidermy service and sometimes will make silly scenes out of animals. 'Kenny' is the squirrel that plays the banjo.

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"One day he drove 30 miles just to put gas in an employees tank who had ran out on the highway," Kayla Harlow says about Adam. He's light hearted and hard-working, taking time to crack a smile with his employees, like Danny, right. He and Adam watch a video Adam made of his employee Marshall several weeks ago.

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Finding time to connect with his family isn't only hard on Adam, but also hard on his family. Noah, 3, comes into Pop's normally once a week to eat lunch with his dad. He and his wife Lisa take time to travel in and out of the United States during the off season, sometimes bringing their sons, Noah and Seth, 6.

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Adam and the Pop's team rotate every week, as they take turns loading the meat in and out of the smoker. "It's a big job that can easily wear you out," Adam says. "That's why we rotate."