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Connections: A BBQ Lover’s Fantasy at Allegany Rockin’ Ribfest

By Jeff Martin

A year ago Saturday, I rolled into Western New York to start yet another new life, and my T-shirt was still stained with the faint glow of Kansas City barbeque.

And since that first day of my arrival, itís been a rough transition ó at least when it comes to food. Oh, there have been memories for the photo album: a smattering of mouth-watering wings and New York-style pizza, the latter some of the best I have ever tasted in my 40 years of life on earth.

Wings? Iíve learned which restaurants to avoid and which to embrace. And how could I forget hot dogs, a culinary endeavor which the good people of WNY have mastered the same way Kansas Citians have mastered BBQ.

Two weeks after my arrival, I tried the BBQ and, well, I was a bit disappointed. The meat was somewhat tough and the sauce wasnít as tangy as I typically liked it. I gave up.

But wait! Whatís that? Driving to work one day, I spotted a sign on the corner of Route 353 and Broadway Road outside Gowanda. The word ìribsî caught my eye, as well as the funnily dressed pig painted on the wooden plank.

The Allegany Rockiní Ribfest rolls into Salamanca on Aug. 16 through Aug. 18 at Veterans Memorial Park. Could it be? Could the BBQ gods above be bestowing an event whose very lanes between the booths are paved with BBQ sauce?

I called my friend Brian, a native whom I met when I first arrived here.

ìWhatís this rib event like, the one down in Salamanca?î

ìLast year was the first year they had it,î he said. ìNot bad. Festivals like that Ö the people behind it, they learn as they go.î

A brief glance at this yearís line-up includes, as always when it comes to BBQ teams, some zany names: Smokiní Joeís Hog Wild Barbeque, Wells Hog Wild, Oinkís BBQ Co. Heck, if the food doesnít hook you, maybe the names of teams will, as is evidence above. Returning to defend their title from last year is Two Fat Guys BBQ.

Iím wondering what kind of smoking vessel teams will utilize in order to cook their food. Iíve seen it all. Iíve seen a team, clad in plastic pig snouts, shoveling brisket into the fuselage of a gutted Cessna plane.

ìI saw some cool smokers last year,î Brian said of the Salamanca event. ìNothing like the ones youíve told me about.î

Thereís time. It takes a while for festivals to establish an identity, a signature that people from around the area ó even the country ó recognize. In Kansas City, smokers from around the country descend on the downtown for the annual American Royal contest, the Olympics of BBQ competition.

Cooks at the Allegany Rockiní Ribfest will compete in categories including best sauce, best pulled pork, best ribs. Judging will take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday and trophies awarded at 3 p.m.

In addition to food, there will also be a car and bike show, live music, a parade and kid zone, unique offerings unlike anything Iíve encountered at other BBQ shows. The car show is new this year and there is a fee for entering the contest. Forms can be found at www.salamancachamber.org or by calling (716) 945-2034.

Bands, cooking up some hot blues music, will play throughout the weekend. Thereís the Spirit of Johnny Cash, the Bob Hartle Band and West of the Mark, Freddie and the Jets, the Blues Hounds, as well as the Allegany River Indian Dancers ó which, by the way, Iíd heard of way out in Kansas City. A prevalent tribe in the Midwest, the Osage, had an Indian festival and some of the organizers talked about the Seneca.

The parade will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, and those interested in participating in the parade should contact Donna Raahauge at (716) 945-4588.

Best of all, the event is free every day. Parking inside the gate is $5, but thatís the extent of it. For more information about the event, visit www.salamancachamber.org or call the chamber at (716) 945-2034.

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