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BrooklynQ
06-08-2006, 09:30 PM
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Rock The Ribfest
By John "jaQ" Andrews jandrews@hippopress.com

Meat.

We’re all made of it. Most of us eat it. And what meat is closest to the heart?
Why, ribs, of course. Perhaps that’s why the Rock’n Ribfest draws 20,000 people to the grounds of the Anheuser-Busch brewery on Route 3 in Merrimack every year.
June 9-11, the Ribfest enters its fourth year. It’s all put on by the Nashua West Rotary Club to benefit a slathering of local charities, from the Nashua Soup Kitchen to the Boys and Girls Club. This year’s Ribfest is dedicated to Leslie Schweiger, who died of cancer earlier this year. The wife of a Rotarian, she volunteered at the event every year.
Other rotary clubs in Canada have held similar events. Rotarians Randy Smith, Rick Stoudt, Fred Daniels and current president Kathleen regan heard about the concept and set about brining it to southern New Hampshire.

“We were looking for a signature event for the club,” Regan said. “We didn’t clone our event exactly like the one in Canada. We kind of did our own thing.” Nashua West Rotary, which split off from the main Nashua Rotary club, had been conducting many smaller fundraisers throughout the year, like selling maple syrup and holding comedy nights, but nothing had the punch of a single, recognizable event.

When Regan first approached the Anheuser-Busch brewery, she wasn’t sure what kind of reception her idea would get. It ended up being a quick approval.
“I think it was the timing and the fact that it was a family-oriented event.… They are incredibly supportive,” Regan said.

The Merrimack plant manager, Denny Nesbit, said that the company is sponsoring Ribfest to the tune of $1,500 in addition to use of the grounds. The plant plays host to several car shows a year as well as baseball and soccer games, but Ribfest is the largest event held there.

For five bucks at the door, you’re in for the day. Kids 8 and under are free. For another $10, kids can have unlimited rides in the children’s area. What’s there? Oh, just two ball pits, two 24-foot climbing walls, a trackless train and every inflatable amusement known to man. We’re talking slides, an obstacle course, a bounce house, a basketball toss and more.
Even for the festival’s main attraction, ribs, there are really two different events. The first is a gathering of professionals, mostly from restaurants, selling their ribs to the public. Last year, Smoken Dudes Smokehouse from Croyden, Penn., captured hearts and stomachs to win the People’s Choice award, snatching it away from local favorite KC’s Rib Shack, which earned the coveted honor in 2004.

Then there’s the amateur competition. Well, “amateur” only in the sense that they’re not there to sell ribs, but to compete in the New Hampshire State Barbecue Championship.
“They’re traveling ribbers,” Regan said. “They go around the country to different rib competitions.”

Sanctioned by the New England and Kansas City barbecue societies, the championship attracts ribbers from New England and beyond. In addition to ribs, competitors grill fish, chicken, beef and other pork. Saturday is the grilling contest, open to all kinds of meats cooked on the grill, while Sunday is reserved for the barbecue contest. Each contestant has a 20-square-foot area in which to prepare the meats, and cooking usually lasts straight through the entire weekend.

In case you get tired of barbecue, plenty of other food vendors will be on hand. Sweet sausages, hot dogs, pizza and french fries make up your healthy main courses, while snacks and desserts range from ice cream and fudge to fried dough, cotton candy and fried
Oreos.

Oh, and then there’s stuff besides food.

Like Rick Gerber, for example. Gerber is the official Anheuser-Busch Master Illusionist. That’s right, his job is to do magic tricks ... for a beer company. “Charmed” doesn’t begin to cover that occupation. And he’s been doing it for more than 28 years. He was discovered in October 1977 by an Anheuser-Busch executive at a bar and hired for a one-year stint of entertaining at trade shows and company events. Since then, he’s made 25,000 separate appearances for the company at auto and horse races, golf tournaments and football, basketball, baseball and soccer games.

Gerber is considered one of world’s top balloon sculptors, in addition to his full cache of magic tricks. He lives in Los Angeles and has traveled to all 50 states as well as Japan, China, Malaysia, Spain, Austria, Tahiti and the Philippines, among other places. He’s no amateur, either. He studied at the Magic Castle, a private club for magicians in Hollywood.
Gerber will be strolling the grounds performing on Saturday afternoon, along with several clowns that do the whole face-painting, horn-honking, puppets and stickers thing. There’s also a race car show organized by Mark Piekarski of Collision Centers of New Hampshire.
“It’s really a good cross section of racers in New England,” Piekarski said. He’s displayed his son’s car, a NASCAR Chevy Late Model competitor, at past shows. This year the show is expanding to include an alcohol-powered dragster, three miniature modified cars (weighing in at about 700 pounds each) and a 1970s vintage 1,500-horsepower funny car.
The entertainment isn’t limited to the ground, either. From 5:30 to 10 p.m. each evening, you can go up in a tethered RE/MAX hot air balloon. Unlike most of Ribfest, which takes place rain or shine, these rides are held only if weather permits; the balloon can’t be inflated in excessively hot or windy conditions. Each ride is $10.

Each day, there’s also a 20-minute aerial acrobatic performance put on by Rob Holland of Aerial Advantage Aviation. He does some pretty darn crazy things to his Pitts Special S-2C biplane in the air: spins, nosedives, flips, free falls — and he’s lived through it all, so you know he’s good. This year, he’s joined by 21-year-old aerobatic champion Melissa Andrzejewski in what Rotary is calling a “Battle of the Sexes.” Each will try to outdo the other with stunts. The three shows are Friday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

And if none of that grabs you ... well, it’s shocking you’ve read this far. You can always enter the hourly raffle. Good luck. And, just to be safe, bring napkins.


D.I.Y.
Hankering to try your own hand at the grill but got a long way to go before earning your black belt in rib-fu? There’s no need to ban the family from your backyard while you secretly order a couple racks from KC’s. The National Pork Board wants you to learn to love ribs, and is willing to give you free stuff to do it. Order or download and print brochures with tips for getting the most out of your grill from their Web site, www.theotherwhitemeat.com (http://www.theotherwhitemeat.com/), under “Freebies.” Among the offerings:

Rib Revelations: A Guide to Heavenly Ribs
This slim brochure gives you a quick look at the basics — from the different types of pork ribs and sauces to preparation methods and side dish suggestions. Recipes, tips and illustrations of adorable flying pigs with halos just aching to be eaten abound.

Fire Up! A Guide to Grilling and Barbecuing Pork
A vast 26-page tome whose scope far exceeds the mere rib, Fire Up! takes you from selecting your barbecue grill to a complete glossary of grilling terms.

Grill Power: A Girl’s Guide to Grilling
With grotesquely skinny cartoon gals, advice like “Rub It Right” and photos Martha Stewart would covet, Grill Power may well be the ultimate feminist handbook. Yes, ladies, throw off the chains of oppression — you DO have the right to cook dinner

FatDad
06-09-2006, 02:24 AM
mouth watering