Pick of the Week: The Erie Wild Rib Cook Off and Music Festival

Categories:  Food & Drink    Events    Community
Thursday, May 31st, 2012 at 1:11 PM
Pick of the Week: The Erie Wild Rib Cook Off and Music Festival by Alex Bieler

 

When does summer truly begin? Well, the answer depends on who you ask. According to astronomers, June 21 marks the first official day of the sunny season. Students might suggest that it starts as soon as their final class lets out. 

In the Book of Bieler, however, summer hasn’t truly begun until the first barbecue.

For many, that means Wednesday, May 30 marks the beginning of the season when the Erie Wild Rib Cook Off & Music Festival kicks off at 11 a.m. in Perry Square. A free event running from Wednesday through Saturday, downtown Erie will become a haven for meat-lovers everywhere.

For 22 straight summers, various teams have traveled to the Flagship City, doling out delicious dishes of pulled pork, brisket, and racks and racks of ribs to attendees, hoping to win awards for “Best Ribs,” “Best Sauce,” and “People’s Choice.” Kathi Danielson, owner of both Performance & Event Management, LLC and the Rib Cook Off, knows that the event marks a special time for local meat lovers.

“I think a lot of people during rib fest take a little extra time during lunch to come down,” Danielson said. “People from Pittsburgh and several counties out come in for this.”

Danielson estimates that around 50,000 people came to Perry Square for last year’s event. I proudly count myself as one of those attendees, visiting the Rib Cook Off three of the four days in a delicious barbecue binge. 

For those concerned about the day I missed, don’t worry, I went twice on one day to make up for it.

While I was lucky enough to have been living a short walk from Perry Square, the rib teams travel from places such as South Carolina, Canada, and beyond to prepare their goods for the salivating crowd.

Even better, while the teams are in town, they purchase a large percentage of their materials from local vendors, supporting the area as well as delivering a delectable product. 

While the thousands of Erieites gnaw away at their ribs and savor every drop of their preferred style of sauce, the Rib Cook Off will host a plethora of bands to entertain the masses. From Wednesday through Friday, Perry Square will be filled with the sounds of bands like Ron Yarosz and the Vehicle, Next of Kin, Refuge, and Totally 80s.

Along with the live entertainment and good eats, a variety of vendors will be stationed in the square for your perusing pleasure, so even if you don’t eat meat, you can still have a good time at the Rib Cook Off.

Not bad for a free event, eh?

Now that the sun is out and the fans have been turned on (I apologize for jinxing the good weather), it’s time to truly enjoy the season.

“[The Rib Cook Off] is the kickoff to summer here in Erie,” Danielson said. “I think the minute it’s done, people look forward to it next year.”

The sad truth is that these four days will go by too fast for meatheads like myself, so make sure to head to Perry Square and dig in. If you don’t, I’m not sure if your taste buds will ever be able to forgive you.

Alex Bieler can be reached at abieler@eriereader.com

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