Madison Ribberfest

New Orleans singer Benoit
to headline 2021 Blues Bash

Festival returns after COVID-19 cancellation in 2020

(August 2021) – Like all other major events in the area, the Madison Ribberfest is rebounding this year for its 19th annual festival after sitting out last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So far this summer, large crowds are showing up for previous summer events, perhaps a result of the eagerness and enthusiasm by people to get out and get back to normal. So it is no surprise that the all-volunteer Madison Ribberfest Committee members are anticipating a large turnout at the Aug. 20-21 blues and barbecue festival on the Madison, Ind., riverfront.


Madison Ribberfest
Blues Bash Lineup

Friday, Aug. 20
• 6 p.m.: Ghost Town Blues Band
• 8 p.m.: Reverend Shawn Amos & The Brotherhood
• 10:15 p.m.: John Mayall

Saturday, Aug. 21

• 11:30 a.m.: Amy Noel Band
• 1:30 p.m.: The Revelators
• 3:30 p.m.: Jay Jesse Johnson
• 5:30 p.m.: The Joe Louis Walker Band with special guest Bruce Katz
• 7:30 p.m.: Shemekia Copeland
• 9:30 p.m.: Tab Benoit
• Admission wristbands: $30 in advance or $35 at the gates both days. Purchase online at www.MadisonRibberfest.com.
• Information: 1-800-559-2956 or (812) 265-2956
• Watch for RoundAbout’s Madison Ribberfest Guide on our racks Friday, Aug. 13-21!

Even so, several regular events associated with the festival over the year will be missing. There will be no RibberRun 5K and no RibberRide bicycle event. And there will be no Riverboat Rides or Pig Toss corn hole tournament or Piglet Pen for the little ones, due to concerns that still exist because of the pandemic. But many events do return, including the Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned pro cooking competition, the Indiana State Championship Cookoff, on Saturday as well as the amateur Backyard BBQ Blast on Friday. The latter amateur event has a new sponsor by the free, monthly, 23-year-old RoundAbout Madison newspaper. RoundAbout replaced the Madison Courier as the sponsor for the Blast when the Courier relinquished its sponsorship just prior to it being sold in February 2020 to Paxton Media Group, based in Paducah, Ky. The Courier had been the event sponsor ever since the Ribberfest began in 2001. RoundAbout had signed on to sponsor the event last year, but the pandemic forced the cancellation of the festival.
The RoundAbout Madison Backyard BBQ Blast will again kick off the two-day festival on Friday, Aug. 20, along Vaughn Drive just east of the festival gate. No wristband is required to stroll through the cooking area to interact with the teams and sample the leftovers for free. The amateur cooking competition has grown over the years and produced several pro cooking teams to the KCBS competition. The 30 to 40 amateur teams are judged Friday evening, with the winners announced on the Blues Bash stage late that night. Participating teams pay a $30 entry fee to compete for cash prizes.


Jean Frank Photography

Tab Benoit will perform Aug. 21 as the Saturday night headliner at Madison Ribberfest.

The nearly 50 pro teams, meanwhile, set up on Friday and cook through the night, turning in their judged entries at 11 a.m. Saturday. Winners in various categories and an overall points winner are announced around 6 p.m. Saturday inside the Brown Gym. Pro teams pay a $275 entry fee to compete for a share of the $12,500 in prize money and awards, with the top 10 teams in each category receiving cash awards. It takes nearly 60 KCBS-certified judges to determine the winners.
Another popular event returning is the Good to the Bone contest at 3 p.m. Saturday in front of the Blues Bash stage. Contestants are drawn from the audience to see how quickly they can eat a rack of ribs. A preliminary rib eating contest was held in June at the Madison Music in the Park concert, sponsored by Madison Ribberfest to promote the festival. Local resident Nick Meacham won. He is expected to return in August to defend his title against all challengers.
The Kidz “Q” cooking contest for youths also returns on Saturday morning at the riverfront gazebo. Information to register for all of these cooking events is online at www.MadisonRibberfest.com.
Festival-goers enjoy sampling barbecue from the participating competition teams and from several food vendors that will be set up on Vaughn Drive inside the gates. But the festival would not be the same without the extensive and impressive lineup of music on Craig Toyota Blues Bash stage.


Photo courtesy of David Gomez

British blues musician John Mayall will perform Aug. 20 as the Friday night headliner at this year's Madison Ribberfest Blues Bash.

This year’s lineup will feature nationally renowned blues bands on stage Friday night and all afternoon Saturday, culminating with the headline act, Tab Benoit.
Friday’s musical lineup features the Ghost Town Blues Band, followed by The Reverend Shawn Amos & the Brotherhood and then headliner John Mayall.
On Saturday, the music starts with Madison-based The Famous Amy Noel Band, followed by The Revelators, Jay Jesse Johnson and The Joe Louis Walker Band with Special Guest Brue Katz. Then Shemekia Copeland will take the stage just prior to headliner Benoit.
Benoit had been signed to headline last year before the pandemic arrived. So organizers are pleased that he is able to come this year.
Finally, the popular Pigmania is back, featuring a large collection of decorated concrete pigs to be judged by the committee and also the public for the “People’s Choice” award. The pigs are currently displayed in front of businesses around town, but come Ribberfest weekend, they will be hauled down to the riverfront to be on display. Festival-goers can vote with their cash and coins, with proceeds benefitting the Ribberfest’s high school scholarship program.
Pre-sale admission wristbands are on sale online and at the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center, 601 W. First St., for $30 and at several other locations. These include the German American Bank locations, Farmers Bank of Milton and Koehler Tire. Those wristbands purchased through Aug. 1 included $10 in food coupons
Advance wristbands are $30 (without food coupons) from Aug. 2-19. On Aug. 20-21, wristbands will be $35 at the gate and online, good for both days. Credit card fees may apply. Children 12 and under are free with a paid adult. Watch the website www.MadisonRibberfest.com and social media for event updates.

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