Madison Ribberfest

Ribberfest, Bluegrass festival
to add more variety to summer offerings

By Don Ward

(April 2002) MADISON, Ind. – Two new festivals are being planned for this summer on Madison’s riverfront: Bluegrass on the River on June 7-8 and the Madison Ribberfest on Aug. 16-17.

Jeff Garrett

Jeff Garrett

Both events are being sponsored by the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and local commercial sponsors. They were conceived in part as a way of generating more tourism traffic in months where there had previously been no major festival in town, according to Madison Mayor Al Huntington.
“My goal as mayor is to have one major festival per month from April to December, and this is a step in that direction,” Huntington said.
Mike Brown of the Jefferson County Bluegrass Association is organizing the two-day bluegrass festival. He expects 4,000 people to attend.
Bands include Skynard Lynard, The Lynn Morris Band and Dean Osborne and Eastbound. Local bands will also perform.
“Bluegrass is especially growing among 30-year-olds and up, so this event may attract an older crowd,” said Brown, a resident of Hanover, Ind. “Madison needs entertainment for people of all ages, so this (older crowd) is going to be our niche.”
Bands will perform from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday. There will also be a flea market and food and crafts booths. Camping will be available.
In August, the riverfront barbecue cooking contests and hot air balloon races will come to Madison with the Madison Ribberfest. It was conceived to celebrate the city’s history as a major pork packing center, said Jeff Garrett, a former city councilman who recently moved back to his native Madison.
He has been hired by the tourism bureau to organize the event and is directing a group of 35 volunteers. He anticipates a budget of $90,000, based on sponsorships, wristband sales and $10,000 in seed money provided by the city of Madison and the Jefferson County Board of Tourism. Belterra Casino Resort has committed $10,000 in sponsorship money for Ribberfest and $3,000 for the bluegrass festival.
Madison Ribberfest will include both amateur and national cooking contests. The latter, to be called the Indiana Barbecue Cook-Off Championship, will be sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, with the winners advancing to the American Royal, the society’s world championship. They will also compete for more than $5,000 in cash and prizes.

Madison Ribberfest Brochure

Blues bands, including the Sacramento, Calif.-based Little Charlie and the Nightcats, plus Sugar Ray and the Blue Tones, have been booked for the event. Madison’s own Blues Devils are among the local bands scheduled to perform. The musical entertainment will last from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and all day Saturday, beginning at 11 a.m.
One conflict that is being resolved is that Madison Main Street Program’s Music in the Park series was originally scheduled to present the Doctor’s Band on the riverfront on Aug. 16, the first day of Ribberfest. The Doctor’s Band has been booked to play Ribberfest on Saturday. The Music in the Park series is free, while Ribberfest patrons must purchase a wristband.
Madison Main Street Program director Dave Adams said in late March that the problems are being resolved by booking Young Country for August instead and moving the free concert to Broadway and Sixth Street. He hopes to move the Doctor’s Band performance to September.
RE/MAX of Indiana is sponsoring two rabbit-and-hare hot air balloon races during Ribberfest that will lift off on the Milton, Ky., side of the Ohio River on Saturday morning and again in the evening. A balloon glow is also scheduled, featuring up to 30 balloons. Jim Pruett, broker at the Madison REMAX office, is serving as balloon race chairman.
A cement pig decorating contest also is being planned, whereby local businesses would sponsor and decorate pigs to help promote the event.
“This sort of contest has been done in other cities and is very popular. People really get into it,” said Garrett, 46, who last year sold his share of a security company he founded in Indianapolis and retired because of health reasons.
Garrett said he expects the inaugural event to attract 10,000 people over two days.
A music stage facing northeast will be constructed in the vacant lot along Vaughn Drive between Poplar and West streets for both the Bluegrass on the River and the Madison Ribberfest, organizers said.

• For information, contact Brown at (812) 866-4344 or Garrett at (812) 265-6466. Or visit these websites: www.madisonribberfest.com or www.visitmadison.org.

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