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VW Rib Fest offers more of everything

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Crowds throng the rib vendors during the 2010 edition of the Van Wert Rib Fest. (VW independent file photo)

More rib and food vendors, more entertainment and lots more activities: This year’s Van Wert Rib Fest bears’ little resemblance to the early years of the event, said Larry Lee, executive director of the Van Wert Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“I was just talking to one of my committee members late last week and he said ‘do you remember five years ago when there were four of us sitting around a table trying to figure out how we were going to put this thing on?’” Lee noted. “And now my committee is about 17 people and everyone is just being so helpful and cooperative.”

One reason this year’s Rib Fest has more of everything is because it’s also twice as long, Lee said, adding that the 2012 Rib Fest will be a two-day event, rather than just one day, as in the past.

“This year we’ve expanded to two days, mostly because of comments that we’ve heard,” the CVB director said. “People want something different from lunch on Friday … non-profits jumped on the band wagon … and it had just exploded into something that is far beyond I think what any of us thought it would be.”

This year’s Rib Fest is this coming weekend, Friday, August 3, and Saturday, August 4, at the Van Wert County Fairgrounds. The event will open each day at 11 a.m. and end at midnight. There will also be a $2 admission charge this year for those over the age of 10, with visitors only allowed to enter the grounds from Gate 5 near the old county swimming pool. The charge is levied after 5 p.m. on Friday and all day Saturday (click here for a full schedule).

Lee said there are eight rib vendors this year — the most of any year so far. “The most I think we have had in the past is six,” he said.

This year’s vendors include Gibson’s Barnyard BBQ, JAV’s BBQ, Pork Brothers BBQ, Shigs in Pit Barbecue Team and Smoke Shack BBQ, Manley Meats, JT BBQ Express and Timmy’s BBQ, which was named the grand champion at this year’s Fort Wayne Rib Fest.

In addition to rib vendors, Annie’s Concessions, CJ’s Shaved Ice, Sycamore Ice Cream, TK Mobile Foods and the Van Wert Lions Club will be on site with more food alternatives.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5803 will again be manning the beer tent, while Emmanuel Lutheran Church will operate the soft drink and water concession.

The two-day event has also led to a new format. On Friday, food vendors will be allowed to prepare and sell anything from their main menus at whatever price each individual vendor wants to charge.

“You may have vendors selling grilled chicken and pulled pork and brisket … whatever they want to sell,” Lee explained.

On Saturday, though, rib vendors will only sell ribs, a sandwich and a side, while Annie’s Concessions (which will give part of its profits to The Salvation Army) will sell funnel cakes and shake-ups, the Van Wert Lions Club will sell french fries and TK Mobile Foods will offer deep-fried veggies and cheese curds. Emmanuel Lutheran will use its profits to support a children’s ministry in the African country of Liberia. Vendors will be open each day at 11 a.m.

In addition to more food choices and items, this year’s entertainment schedule is also much bigger than in the past, with seven bands scheduled to play during the two-day event. On Friday, beginning at 5:30 p.m., Bad Advice will play, followed by Mo Blues and The Dogz. On Saturday, Boom Swang will take the stage at 5 p.m., followed by Double Kik, Black Cat Mambo and featured band The Earthquakers from 9 p.m.-midnight.

“Stuart Jewett from my committee has worked really hard to put together some really fine entertainment,” Lee noted, adding that the event has featured, at most, three bands in the past. “It’s kind of a mixture this year: it’s not hard rock, it’s not country, it’s kind of a mixture.”

Several community organizations are also providing family-friendly events for this year’s Rib Fest, including an ag-themed Kids Dream Day, sponsored by the Van Wert County and Paulding County Farm Bureaus, from 1-7 p.m. both days in front of the grandstand. Anyone over the age of 6 can drive a tractor around the racetrack, while adults can drive an obstacle course. Kernel Cooper’s Corn Maze will also provide a straw maze for kids, while there will also be a number of interactive and hands-on ag demonstrations. The event has an additional charge of $5 per person or $10 per family for non-Farm Bureau members, with the proceeds going to the Farm Bureau Scholarship Fund. There will also be horse-drawn wagon rides between the Rib Fest site and the grandstand.

Other events include the first annual Rib Fest Euchre Tournament, sponsored by the Van Wert Council on Aging (preregistration required by calling the Council on Aging at 419.238.5011); a Happy Hour from 3-5 p.m. with half-priced adult beverages; the Rib Fest Cruise-In; Friday (participants can enter through Gate 4 off Fox Road); a Tug-of-War demonstration; a Wiffleball Home Run Derby and tournament conducted by the YMCA of Van Wert County; a Car and Cushman Scooter Show (Cruise-In participants get in free); the sixth annual Rib Fest Cornhole Tournament; and a Paint the Pig activity sponsored by Wassenberg Art Center in Van Wert.

There are also several unique events that will debut at this year’s Rib Fest. Those include the When Pigs Fly event, which will involve dropping hundreds of tiny plastic pigs over a “pig pen,” with prizes awarded to the pig that lands in the pig pen, the pig that lands closest to the pen and the one that lands farthest from the pen; pig races sponsored by the YWCA of Van Wert County; and a Rib Relay Race sponsored by the YMCA that includes both running and eating (an unusual combination).

Awards will be presented to the first-, second- and third-place rib vendors at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, with best ribs and sauce to be determined by a panel of judges. There will also be a People’s Choice Award determined by the public.

“We want people to come out and enjoy themselves,” Lee said. “This year, we think there are events that are good for the whole family.”

POSTED: 07/31/12 at 7:24 am. FILED UNDER: News