Recently deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was the unlikely guest at a 2011 barbecue in Hickory, North Carolina. Chavez attended at the invitation of former Representative Cass Ballenger, who insisted that Hickory was the place for Chavez to get a real taste of America’s free enterprise and entrepreneurial spirit.

From The Charlotte Observer:

During a two-day visit, Chavez toured several area businesses, including Ballenger’s Plastic Packaging Inc., and visited a local day care. To hear Donna Ballenger tell it, Chavez was pleasant and curious, talking to everybody he met and snapping pictures around town. At the barbecue, he drank beer and serenaded her toddler grand-daughter with a Spanish lullaby.

“He loved Hickory,” said Donna Ballenger. “He was a nice man. He was very caring.…We knew him on a different stage.”

The Charlotte Observer – Hugo Chavez: ‘He just loved Hickory’