The Hippo


Apr 24, 2019








Lined up and ready for the Ribfest 5-Miler. Courtesy photo.

Ribfest special events

Taste of Ribfest
Try barbecue from championship competitors in the judging tent on Friday, June 19, at 5 and 7 p.m. Cost is $40, which includes Ribfest admission.
For the first time, cyclists can get out and active at Ribfest for a 25 mile bicycle ride on Saturday, June 20, at 9:30 a.m. Take a ride through Merrimack, Amherst, and Nashua before returning to the BAE parking lot.
Ribfest 5 Miler Road Race
Runners can take their marks at 9 a.m. on Sunday, June 21, for the annual five mile race. Kids can put their feet to the test at 8:45 a.m. for the 100-yard Kids Fun Run.
Main Stage Music
Enjoy live music all weekend with performances by The Pop Farmers, Gary Hoey, Centre St., Alan St. Louis, The Fools, The Slakas, Eric Grant Band and The Psychedelic Relics.
Military Appreciation Day
On Sunday, active members of the military and three family members are welcome to Ribfest for free.
See for a full schedule of events
Rock’ n Ribfest
When: Friday, June 19, from 4 to 11 p.m.; Saturday, June 20, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, June 21, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Anheuser-Busch, 221 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack
Tickets: Admission costs $10 at the gate. Taste of Ribfest, food and beverage, and kids rides priced separately.

A rib-rockin’ good time
Barbecue lovers flock to Rock’n Ribfest

By Allie Ginwala

What started as a simple function for locals to come and enjoy different styles of ribs not readily available in the area has morphed into a weekend-long festival of all things ribs, pulled pork, barbecue and more. Drawing 40,000 people to the Anheuser-Busch grounds, Rock’n Ribfest gives New Hampshirites the chance to taste and learn about ribs from as close by as Vermont and New Jersey to as far away as Canada and Texas.

The idea to have a rib-themed event came about because no such event existed in New Hampshire, according to Rock’n Ribfest chairman Randy Smith. He’d heard of rib showcases in other states, but none nearby.
“[No one was] doing it here in New England and [we] thought it would be a unique opportunity to bring food from other areas,” Smith said in a phone interview.
The chairman of  Rock’n Ribfest since Rotary Nashua West started it 13 years ago, Smith said the event was first created as an outlet to fundraise for local nonprofits. 
“We do try to help out all the different areas in the community,” he said.
Proceeds from Ribfest support everything from adult substance abuse and food banks to the Boys & Girls Club, Meals on Wheels and the Nashua Children’s Home. 
With the concept in mind, Ribfest was created and rested upon three main segments — providing food, entertainment and kids’ activities. 
One aspect that encompasses both food and entertainment is the State of New Hampshire’s Official State Barbecue Championship. A sanctioned competition by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, competitors from across the country face off for the chance to earn a spot in the national competition in Kansas City. 
“The KCBS states what they’re cooking and each competitor perfects their methodology, sauces, treatments and marinades,” Smith said. “These are very serious cookers, [at first] they don’t have a lot of time to talk. But after [they’ve] submitted they'll tell you about all the products and how they cook and all their strategies.”
The way it works is that competitors choose to compete in both the grilling and barbecue contests or just one. Friday is the day to set up and prep for Saturday’s grilling contest and Sunday’s barbecue contest. 
“People can come watch as they prepare and do their own thing,” Smith said. “Everything has to be prepared on site.”
While there is no amateur competition at Ribfest (Smith said the focus is to learn at Ribfest by watching the ribbers and competition then try it at home) there is a chance to savor the competition pieces. A Taste of Ribfest on Friday night brings together six competitors who volunteer to use their marinades and sauces to cook for guests.
“People can try it and see what it tastes like being a professional competitor,” he said.
Another way to enjoy piles of barbecue is with the food vendors or “ribbers” who bring their specialties from different states.
“We have nine professional ribbers selling ribs and sides, and everything else [is] from pizza to ice cream to candies to fried dough to hamburgers and hotdogs and apple crisp,” Smith said. 
Ribbers attending just as vendors come from both inside and outside the U.S., while the non-rib vendors are mostly from New England.
Debbie Buttemeier, senior supervisor of brewery experiences at Anheuser-Busch in Merrimack, has been to Rock’n Ribfest every year since it started. With the influx of visitors to the facility, Buttemeier said it’s usually really busy leading tours through the brewery that weekend, so she checks out the rib festivities at the end of the day.
“You know, we teach people on our tours every day that beer and food go together, so I think it's a natural pairing,” she said in a phone interview.
It’s the biggest event Anheuser-Busch holds on its almost 300-acre facility. 
“The thing that I like the most is that it’s all about community. All of the proceeds support local area non profits,” she said. “Anheuser-Busch has always been big in the community and that opportunity to participate in giving back is fantastic.”
Brewery tours and professional ribbers aren’t the only activities to head to Ribfest for. Check out live music, dance and martial arts performances, Granite State Clowns, a road race and for the first time this year, a bicycle ride.
“There’s a lot of people that enjoy running and there’s also a lot of people that enjoy riding their bikes,” Smith said. “We decided to offer something on the healthy side.”
Building on itself every year with more activities and entertainment, Smith doesn’t know when Ribfest will reach its capacity of expansion, only that he wants to keep guests happy and returning. 
“We are continuing growing, expanding and changing,” he said. “We like to add new things and those things that don’t appeal to customers we don’t do.”
“Each of the years since [the beginning] we’ve grown in all avenues,” Smith said. “We've brought in more ribbers, allowed entertainment to continue to grow and bring in even bigger and larger bands from the region.” 
As seen in the June 18, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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