by Jeff Cole
The enticing smoky aroma and succulent flavor of barbecued ribs and pulled pork are enough to draw thousands of people to some of the major rib festivals around the country.
Those who prepare food in these ribfests are far from being “ordinary Joes” with a small grill and a “Kiss the Cook” apron. Rather, they are decorated national championship rib masters who come from all around the country to show their stuff, and from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Aug. 16-18, five of these vendors will set up their booths at Veterans Memorial Park on Broad Street in Salamanca for the Allegany Rockin’ Ribfest.
The ribfest will feature half-slab or full-slab lunches or dinners, as well as pulled pork and other pork products. All of the food will be prepared by national championship rib teams, who have come from areas such as Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania and have competed in some of the country’s major ribfests.
“It’s just really neat to bring them to Salamanca,” said Jenny Ingrao, member services and events manager with the Salamanca Chamber of Commerce.
Admission to the event is free and the only costs will be for food and beverages. The event will feature three days of entertainment, including an arts and crafts show, a beer tent, a motorcycle cruise-in and a “Kidzone” area with bounce houses, slides and face painting.
From 8-10 p.m. Aug. 18, The Spirit of Johnny Cash, a Johnny Cash tribute band, will perform some of the music made famous by “The Man in Black.” Music will also be played each day.
“We were really lucky to be able to find them. I think everyone’s going to like them,” said Ingrao.
Of course, the most obvious draw to a ribfest is the food, plenty of which will be available to choose from in the Allegany Rockin’ Ribfest. In between pulled pork sandwiches or another half-rack of ribs, ribfest-goers will also be able to vote for their favorite vendor throughout Thursday, Friday and until 2 p.m. Saturday for the “People’s Choice Award,” which is one of several award categories featured in the festival. Some of the others are “Best Ribs,” “Best Sauce” and “Best Pulled Pork” as deemed by a judging panel.
“And then overall combined scores for the highest will be dubbed ‘Ribmaster,’ which of course is the coveted prize that everybody wants to have,” said Ingrao.
The ribfest, according to Ingrao, is the brainchild of the Salamanca Chamber of Commerce’s events committee, which develops ideas every fall for events to hold in the upcoming calendar year. Ingrao said that neither Salamanca nor Cattaraugus County have hosted a ribfest before, but noted her expectations are high for this one and that she easily anticipates a couple thousand people attending throughout the weekend.
“I think there might be a ton of people who are coming to check it out to see what it is. I think we’re going to have some people come in and out throughout the day to see what it’s about and then come back later to bring their friends and family and say, ‘Hey, this looks really cool, let’s go check this out,’” she said. “But of course, being the first one, I have to make sure I’m on my A-game and the volunteers and the staff and the board of the chamber are on their A-game just to make sure that everything goes off without a hitch and that it leaves a good impression and open arms in the community to wanting to bring it back for a second year.”