The Rib America Festival is a fun filled family event featuring award winning BBQ and live entertainment from national, regional and local talent. Each rib cooker features their very own special cooking strategy and recipes that make for a truly unique food festival experience.
My Dad and I attend every year. And it's our tradition to sample a few ribs from each of the cookers and ultimately choose our favorite; after which we return home and pass out from meat overload.
Now, amazing sauce, tender meat and spicy rib-rub notwithstanding, I noticed a few environmental elements that altered the perception of certain cookers' value.
1) Lines: like my Dad always says, "Just because there's a long line, it doesn't mean the ribs are good; and just because there's nobody in line, it doesn't mean the ribs are bad." Case in Point: our personal award for the past two years went to Dave's Good Ol' Boys BBQ from New York. And for the last two years, those guys have had NO LINE. Hmmm. Interesting.
SPICE THIS UP: Popular doesn't mean better.
2) Credibility: a lot of the cookers had trophies from various cook-offs over the years - but most of those awards were from the 90's. To me, that didn't seem all that impressive. But while waiting in line for some ribs from a South Carolina cooker, the judges from this year's festival walked over and presented the 2005 1st Place Trophy to their booth! And you better believe their line doubled instantly!
SPICE THIS UP: Credibility is most effective when it's recent.
3) Promotion: one cooker from Chicago - who makes amazing ribs every year - passes out free stickers with a picture of their mascot, Paulie the Pig. And here's the cool part: every customer gets one. And they HAVE to wear it! According to one of the cooks I spoke with, at least one third of the people in line were drawn in by others who were wearing those stickers.
SPICE THIS UP: It's not who you know, it's who knows you.
At the end of a long afternoon, all of the ribs were great. And rightly so - only a select group of cookers are chosen to show at this festival. But "great" isn't that special when everyone else is great. You need something else if you want to stand out and be unforgettable.
LET ME ASK YA THIS...
How do you spice it up?
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Author/Speaker/That guy with the nametag