Barbecue crews from across the country will compete in an official New England Barbecue Society (NEBS) contest and a Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) contest for trophies, a portion of $11,000 in prize money, and — most importantly — significant bragging rights. Winners advance to the national finals in Kansas City, Kansas.
The NEBS competition will be held on Saturday. Categories include: pizza; pork tenderloin; beef rib-eye; and, in honor of the Hudson Valley’s premier agricultural export, an apple dessert. Sunday’s KCBS competition features four classic categories: chicken, pork ribs, pork butt and beef brisket.
“You’ll see a lot of dedicated barbecuers from all over the country,” explained contest coordinator Stephanie King. “Each has a different way of doing what they do, but the overall feeling is a great sense of camaraderie. Even though they’re competing, it’s not cutthroat; it’s friendly and good-humored. The old pros are always there to help the new team.”
After 2 p.m. each day, teams kick back beside their custom smokers in the barbecuers’ camp. “That’s when I would encourage people who visit to go back and walk around the teams’ camps,” said King. “They’re usually very happy to talk to the public. They’re very friendly — up to a point. Not the secret sauce.”
While competition entries are not for sale, fairgoers can sink their teeth into a panoply of pork, beef, chicken and sides from a host of barbecue vendors’ booths. Deep-fried pickles, sweet corn, hot dogs, hamburgers, French fries, jerk shrimp and fish, pretzels, nuts, fudge, candy, smoothies and fresh-squeezed lemonade are just a few potential food finds.
This year’s entertainment includes children’s games, live music and an outstanding lineup of cooking demonstrations. On Saturday afternoon, rock out to the Hot Rod Band; that evening, groove to the funk and R&B stylings of Exit 19. On Sunday afternoon, get on your feet with The Cagneys, covering hits of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s and beyond. Saturday’s cooking demonstrations include chef Claire Winslow of The Would Restaurant in Highland at 10 a.m., chef Jessica Winchell of Global Palate Restaurant in West Park at 11 .m., chef Derek Corsino of Corsino Cakes in Red Hook at 12 p.m., chef Amy Haight of Bridgewater in Kingston featuring “Summer Delights with Your BBQ” at 1 p.m. Texas BBQ pitmaster Mike Volpe of Keegan Ales in Kingston answers questions about barbecue and brews at 2 p.m. Chef Steve Savona of Savona’s Trattoria in Kingston will be on at 3 p.m. Chef Diane Reeder of Queens Galley in Kingston, joined by chef Najat Kaanache Amghiraf of Spain, will present “Sides to Serve with Your BBQ” at 4 p.m. “Using Local Hudson Valley Produce and Products for Your Summer BBQ” by the Hudson Valley Chef Series is on at 5 p.m.
Sunday features chefs Reeder and Amghiraf with “Sides to Serve with Your BBQ” at 11 a.m., chef Corsino with “Desserts” at noon, and chef Marcus Guiliano of Aroma Thyme Bistro in Ellenville with “Healthy Choices for Your BBQ” at 1 p.m. Chefs Reeder and Amghiraf will present “Sides to Serve with Your BBQ” at 2 p.m., and the Hudson Valley Chef Series will be on at 3 p.m.
Hudson Valley RibFest is one of a dozen certified events comprising the Empire State BBQ Championship challenge, promoting high-caliber low-and-slow cooking throughout New York.
“We’ve had teams from out of state — the Northeast, Florida, Texas. It’s great,” said Rotarian Claire Costantino. “Every time we can bring visitors to the area, we have the potential for them to come back. They stay the weekend, shop locally, visit our restaurants, and see how beautiful our area is.”
Proceeds from Hudson Valley RibFest benefit the many local and global charitable causes supported by the Highland Rotary Club. The local chapter is part of a national organization that provides humanitarian services to foster goodwill around the world.
Admission is $5 for adults; free for children twelve and under. Advance tickets are available at all area Hannaford supermarkets for $4. Parking is free.
The Ulster County Fairgrounds are located at 249 Libertyville Road in New Paltz.
For more information, visit www.hudsonvalleyribfest.org.