Porkin' Out

Third annual Madison Ribberfest
has strong local following

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

MADISON, Ind. (August 2004) – The tantalizing aroma of slow-roasted meat wafting through the air will no doubt lure a crowd to the riverfront for the third annual Madison Ribberfest, a two-day festival of “Barbeque, Blues & Balloons.”

Madison Ribberfest

Photo by Don Ward

The Madison Ribberfest music stage
features nonstop action.

Scheduled for Aug. 20-21 along Vaughn Drive will be a row of cookers manned by competitors in the Indiana State Barbecue Cook-Off Championship, while regional and national blues bands entertain spectators. Topping off the event will be a hot air balloon glow on Friday evening, and two balloon race on Saturday. Also Friday evening, dozens of area amateur competitors will take part in the Backyard BBQ Blast.
“It’s a great festival to meet local people and enjoy Madison’s riverfront with the background of blues music,” said event director Kathy Ayers.
First held in 2002, Ribberfest is one of more than 70 events this year nationwide sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society. It has grown into a much-anticipated event for both local and national competitors. Last year, 37 teams entered the competition, according to event co-chair Shawn Auxier. This year, Ribberfest is the state championship and automatic qualifier for the KCBS American Royal national competition, which will be held in Kansas City in October. It is also a feeder for the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue in Lynchburg, Tenn., an “invitation only” event. “You’ll get teams from all over the world competing in that event,” said Auxier.
The Madison-based team, Pig Pak, which includes John Branigan, Mike DeShong, David Baratti and Merrill Nay, last year took home Ribberfest’s coveted “Best of Jefferson County” award. The team travels regularly around the region to compete.
Of the many competitions in which he has competed, Nay said Madison is one of the best. The facilities are good and “the organizers do an awfully good job of welcoming all the cookers,” he said.
Ribberfest team registration begins at noon Thursday, Aug. 19. Teams may set up but will not be allowed to begin cooking until after a meat inspection Friday morning. Cook-off categories are chicken, pork ribs, pork (which includes Boston butt, picnic or whole shoulder), beef brisket, barbecue sauce, dessert and open (any meat other than those previously listed). Of these, only the first four qualify for KCBS sanctioning and determine the Grand and Reserve Grand Champions. Judging is very specific and is conducted according to KCBS rules.
Cash and awards totaling more than $10,000 will be presented to the top three finishers in each category.

Irish Team

Photo by Don Ward

Smokin Irish Team at the 2003 festival.

Along with the KCBS qualifier, on Friday, Aug. 20, will be the Backyard BBQ Blast, open to amateur cooks. “We look at ourselves as kind of an incubator to the pro teams,” said Blast chairman Steve Thomas. Awards will be presented to the top three places in ribs, pork, beef, poultry and game or other meats. Special prizes will also be awarded for best original sauce, best original spice rub, best barbecue team and people’s choice. The Blast will take place in the asphalt lot on Vaughn Drive between Poplar and Central streets. “We really encourage our local people to sign up,” said Ayers.
Each year the blast has grown in competing teams, and since its first year the types of entries submitted has doubled, said Thomas. He added that the event is a great opportunity for local businesses to encourage team building.
Last year, 24 teams participated in the Blast. Taking first place in ribs and chicken was Smoked Signals, comprised of Doug Spiller, his wife, JoAnne, and parents, Don and Diane Spiller. Spiller, whose team this year will move up to the KCBS-sanctioned competition, said he would encourage anyone who enjoys cooking to enter. “It’s only 10 bucks to compete, and you’re definitely going to learn something,” Spiller said.
In addition to barbecue cooking, of which there will be plenty, throughout the day Friday and Saturday will be a variety of family-oriented entertainment. The blues band line-up will include Magic Slim, Sean Costello, Tab Benoit Band, Jimmy D, The Blues Devils, Greg Schaber, Kid Ramos, Mark Hummel and Grammy nominated headliner Marcia Ball.
For children through age 12 will be the “Piglet Pen” at Kiwanis Park, sponsored by the Lide White Memorial Boys and Girls Club. The area will include inflatable games, bouncing rooms and obstacle courses by Adrenaline Force Amusements of Louisville. Children ages 8-12 can play in the area supervised by Piglet Pen volunteers; those under 8 must be accompanied by an adult. Piglet Pen will be open from 6-10 p.m. on Friday, noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday and 6-10 p.m. on Saturday. Admission to the play area is $10 per session or $1 per ticket.
Near the area will be a rock climbing wall for adults and older children. All proceeds from Piglet Pen will go toward the Boys and Girls Club, according to organizer Ray Black.
Another Ribberfest favorite is the Hot Air Balloon Glow and Race, sponsored by RE/MAX of Indiana and Gaylor. Balloons will light up the Kentucky side of the river at 8 p.m. Friday. On Saturday, balloons will take flight in two races, at 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
More than 100 community members donate time and effort to making sure that Ribberfest goes off without a hitch. “This awesome event could not be put on without all of the wonderful people who volunteer their time preparing for it throughout the year, not just on the weekend of,” said Ayers.

•  Admission to Ribberfest is $15 for a two-day pass through Aug. 1, which includes $10 in food and beverage tickets. After Aug. 1, admission is $15 for a two-day pass but does not include food and beverage tickets. Wristbands can be purchased at the entrance gates, at West Street and Poplar Street for $10 per each day. Food and beverage tickets will be sold at the festival, with the Madison Jaycees Club operating two beer tents. Vendors will not accept cash. For more information, visit: www.madisonribberfest.com

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