Ribfest Roadtrip

Ribfest Roadtrip

By: (Link: http://www.jeffhillyard.com/) Jeff Hillyard

If you follow me on (Link: http://www.instagram.com/jeffhillyard/) Instagram, you know that a couple of weeks back I travelled to Moncton, NB (Canada) to take in the (Link: http://www.rotaryribfestmoncton.ca/) Rotary Ribfest Moncton.

What’s a Ribfest? Glad you asked. A ribfest is typically a weekend long barbecue festival where a number of travelling food vendors (called “Ribbers”) set up concessions and sell barbecue (mostly ribs) and sides to visitors. The vendors will compete against one another for awards such as: Best Ribs, Best Sauce, Best Pulled Pork, and People’s Choice.

Usually there will be live music and other concessions set up like: ice cream, popcorn, French fries, and most importantly – beer. For a beer drinking, barbecue loving, fat guy like me, this is like fucking Disneyland.

When I arrived at the Ribfest Friday night, I was impressed by the size of the event. Moncton is a city of less than 100,000 people so I hadn’t expected a whole lot. Roads were closed, fencing put up, a large concessions area where the vendors were set up, a large stage with full PA system, and seating for hundreds!

And while I didn’t know it, I later found out that the nice lady who thanked me for coming as I entered the grounds was none other than the (Link: http://www.moncton.ca/Government/Mayors_Office.htm) Mayor of Moncton. Only in Canada.

At this event there were 5 Ribbers:

They all seemed to have the same basic set up with at least two (Link: https://www.southernpride.com/) Southern Pride propane smokers along with two food warmers and various other kitchen equipment built into trailers. This set up would be able to cook over 100 racks of St. Louis cut ribs at a time while hot holding another 100 racks. Kinda necessary if you’re going to be serving over 1000 racks a day.

Each trailer had a large metal façade that built upwards and featured the menu, as well as listing off the various awards they have won at recent Ribfest’s. I think the point of these monstrous signs is to make there trailer look more appealing than the next guys.

As the weekend went on, it became apparent to me that almost everyone working on the Ribber trailers were university students. Talk about a sweet summer gig! You get to travel from town to town making barbecue. Although, as I think about this now, I bet the novelty wears off pretty quick.

During the roughly 48 hours I was in town I tried each vendor’s ribs. (Calm down Mom, I only ate a half rack from each vendor and I ate some coleslaw on Sunday.)

From what I saw and tasted, each Ribber appeared to have the same process for preparing their ribs. They season with their rub, smoke them hot and fast on the gas powered Southern Pride Smoker which is essentially a gas oven with a firebox for smoke, and then hold them in an oven before finally saucing them on charcoal pits front and center of their stands and serving them to you.

If you’re just an average Joe who does any of the following when making your own ribs at home: boil them, start them in your oven then “finishes on the grill” (seriously, WTF?), or you use liquid smoke… these were probably awesome ribs.

If you’re a full-fledged barbecue nut like me, your results will probably be a little different.

I broke down the quality like so: 1 rack was “really good”, 3 were “good”, and 1 was “okay”. None of the food I ate was downright bad, but none of it was enough to get excited over. The meat was indeed smokey and accompanied with smoke rings. Most racks had a decent bark. All had a thick coating of sauce. None had the membrane removed; which is kind of expected given the sheer volume. 

Don’t let that discourage you from ever going to a Ribfest. I went for the experience and to hang out with friends, drink beer, listen to music, and eat some ‘que! I never said it had to be Aaron Franklin level quality ‘que!

All in all I enjoyed myself at this Ribfest. It was a fun carnival atmosphere with lots of refreshments around. The park-like scenery was a great backdrop for the event, and the live music was great.

I just wished that I didn’t need to travel over 700 miles to get to it!