Every summer a phenomenon known as Ribfest takes place all over North America. Professional "rib teams" travel across the country competing in rib cook-offs against one another for top spot in several categories including: Best Ribs, Best Sauce, Best Pulled Pork, and the Peoples Choice Award. In the past 10 years the ribfest has become an increasingly popular event drawing thousands of visitors and creating a circus/carnival atmosphere wherever it stops.
All the teams surround their BBQ pits with colourful banners proudly proclaiming the pedigree of their wares. "Best Ribs Louisville 2006" says one. "Best in Show Nashua New Hampshire" proclaims another. Out front of each pit stands a tout drawing the customers in to try the ribs, or chicken, barbecued to perfection by the waiting teams.
Coleslaw, beans, girls in cowboy hats, and bands playing ZZ Top or B.T.O all accompany the stacks of ribs on the grills.
On June 3, 1972 the first formal barbecue cook off, The World Championship Cow Country BBQ Cookout in Uvalde, TX, started the ball rolling and barbecue cook-offs have sprouted up all over since then. Chicago is said to be the home of the first ribfest, but major events are held from Dallas,Texas to Timmins, Ontario. The Toronto Ribfest draws about 150,000 people to Centennial Park every year.
Vendors selling corn, candy apples, and blooming onions, as well as children's carnival rides tow their rigs from town to town every weekend. One couple from Florida I spoke to spends their whole summer earning tuition for school working these events. Maybe one year I'll become a "rib carny" for the summer and join the BBQ circus.
There is no way I can give you my rib sauce recipe. Not because its secret, but because I don't measure any ingredients and it comes out different every time. Coleslaw is the perfect side for ribs and the coleslaw they make in North Carolina known as Lexington Red Slaw is one of my favourites, So I'll give you my recipe for that instead. Lexington slaw uses ketchup and hot sauce instead of mayonnaise to give it extra tang.
Lexington Red Slaw
2 lb white cabbage shredded
1 red onion chopped
1 red pepper diced
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup ketchup
1 tsp smoked paprika
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
few dashes of hot sauce
combine and serve with grilled ribs and baked beans
You can see more photos of Toronto Ribfest 2011 at my photoblog - http://adventurefoodiephoto.blogspot.com/2011/07/toronto-ribfest-2011.html