While blue skies ceded to grey clouds on Sunday, it seemed only to whet true-blue barbecue lovers’ appetites.
“At 11 o’clock it was pouring, and there was still a line to get in. People do love their ribs,” said Rotarian Claire Costantino.
Ribfest is part of the Empire State BBQ Challenge, hosting an official New England Barbecue Society (NEBS) competition on Saturday and a Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) competition on Sunday. Ribfest’s KCBS grand champion can compete on the national level in both the Jack Daniel’s World Championship and the American Royal Barbecue. This year, contestants were judged on the matter of their meat by over 50 trained and certified barbecue judges.
Top five finishers in each competition received trophies, cash, a year’s worth of bragging rights and a bottle of event sponsor Tuthilltown Spirits’ Hudson Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey.
While competitors’ fare is not for sale, there’s plenty of ribs, chicken, pulled pork and beef brisket to be had at a plethora of barbecue vendors’ booths. Barbecue businesses included: Elia’s Texas Connection, Jack’s Down Home Barbecue, Butch’s Smack Your Lips BBQ, Smoke’n Dudes Barbeque, Big Moe’s BBQ and M&M Ribs.
Those who sampled multiple meats were urged to cast their vote for “fan favorite” ribs.
Second-time Ribfest visitor Jim Fasce of Kerhonkson said his fan favorite vote went to Elia’s Texas Connection, of Highland.
“So far I think they’re the best I’ve had -- and I’ve had all but one so far,” he said.
Roasted sweet corn, hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, fried pickles, smoothies, lemonade, jerk shrimp and fish, soft pretzels, gourmet nuts, fudge, candy and 4-H milkshakes rounded out the roster of repast.
Entertainment included an outstanding cooking demonstration lineup, live music featuring The Chain Gang Saturday afternoon, Thunder Ridge Saturday night and Touch of Rhythm Band on Sunday afternoon, plus a children’s area with inflatable bouncing houses, climbing wall and kid’s country games. Visitors saw a real NASCAR stock car, take a spin around the track of a Nationwide racing simulator, and spin the NASCAR wheel for a chance to win prizes.
The Ribfest Demonstration Tent featured presentations by John Markus, executive producer and creator of TLC’s BBQ Pitmasters, the barbecue challenge television show; Hudson Valley Chef Jordan Schor, creator of a new television series called “Hudson Valley Chefs”; and cooking demonstrations from Chef Ric Orlando, owner of New World Home Cooking and New World Bistro Bar; Chef Robert “Bobby” Mateszewski of Quaker Creek; butcher Joshua Applestone, of Fleischer’ Grass-Fed and Organic Meats; and Chef Clarence Vandemark of Del Fresco’s New York.
Ribfest is the Highland Rotary Club’s largest annual fundraiser. Proceeds from the event benefit community and global service projects, including the Hudson Valley Rail Trail and the Pure Water Project in El Salvador.
“Even with the rain, we’ve got a lot of rib-lovers enjoying themselves, and we’re happy with the turnout. Over 30 [volunteer] organizations are here today helping out and benefitting. Ribfest continues to have a positive influence on our community,” said Rotarian Alan Van De Bogart.