Once again, by all appearances, the annual Ribs, Rods & Rock 'n Roll event proved to be a resounding success.
Downtown Vermillion began to fill with people Friday as food vendors and barbecue competitors began to claim their spaces on Market Street leading up to Main Street.
Entertainers began providing music at the Hy-Vee entertainment tent, located on Main Street across from the downtown's Ratingen Plaza.
Saturday, downtown swelled with people again, as motorcyclists gathered to take part in the Eagle Charity Poker Run. While contest participants prepared their best barbecue dishes for judges, people kept busy at the Rib Fest Food Court or strolling up and down Main Street, viewing the scores of classic automobiles entered in the Classic Car and Cycle Show and Shine.
Some chose to listen to the free musical entertainment offered by the C.J. Kocher Band and the Public Domain Band. Early Saturday afternoon, a corn cob cooking demonstration was offered by Larry Mart, and from 2 to 4 p.m., the people's choice public BBQ judging was held, with more musical entertainment.
Saturday night, some people chose to sit under the entertainment tent, listening to live music. Others sat at tables in the downtown plaza, enjoying good conversation and cold beer as the sun set on a perfect summer day in Vermillion.
And while some vendors and contestants began packing up their equipment to travel to the next barbecue contest, others tirelessly worked on, feeding ribs and pulled pork and other grilled and smoked meats that serve as a centerpiece of this event.
Wayne Winners and the five other people that manned the Porky-N-Beans booth were kept hopping Saturday night, working to keep up with the demand for their delicious barbecued offerings.
The large banner above the booth's serving counter, where people didn't mind standing in line to wait for their food, advertised that Porky-N-Beans was "Home of the Famous Pulled Pork Sandwich."
"We're from Port St. Lucie, Florida," Wayne said through a haze of smoke as he tended to several racks of ribs being cooked over an glowing wood embers on an outdoor grill.
Earlier in the day, their ribs placed third in a very competitive field. "And we won fifth in beef brisket," Wayne said.
Wayne's cousin, Gary Corrino, who heads this team of vendors and barbecue competitors, only had time to mention that he "was very, very thrilled" that they did so well in the South Dakota State BBQ Championship that attracts some of the best outdoor grill masters in the country to Vermillion each year.
Saturday night, local volunteers who help organize this signature event for Vermillion were still going strong, even though they had were going on their second full day of nearly non-stop activities with very little sleep.
The effort that goes into hosting the state BBQ championship, complete with a car show, vendors, musical entertainment and street dances that go into the wee hours of both Friday and Saturday morning, is an exhausting one.
The Porky-N-Beans team likely was operating on pure adrenalin. The vendors and competitors, key to making the weekend event a success in Vermillion, may be envied for their delicious ribs, but not for their hectic lifestyle.
"There's six of us that travel on the road together," Winners said, "and this year, we've been in 23 states."
The Porky-N-Beans team has been cooking ribs, chicken and pork at competitions for 23 years. "We been go, go, go. We were just in Reno, NV, and we were just leaving there, and my uncle asked us if we could do this show here.
"We decided to make the drive to Vermillion and take part in this, and it's just been a killer show for us," he said. "It's been very, very good for us. There are a lot of heavy hitters here, a lot of guys who have been competing twice as long as us, and we didn't think we had a chance when we came here, but we proved ourselves wrong and we knocked their socks off. We did very, very well."
The Porky-N-Beans team was very appreciative of the awards they received Saturday. Perhaps more rewarding, however, was the public reaction they received from local folks who didn't mind standing in line to get a taste of their barbecue.
"We've had three lines since 11 o'clock this morning," Wayne said Saturday night, "and all day yesterday."
Ribs prepared by the Porky-N-Beans go from a smoker to a cooler to rest for a time. "We let them sit a little bit, and we sweat the ribs a little bit," he said. That and other techniques that remain a secret are key to getting just the right taste, he said.
The Porky-N-Beans glazes their ribs, after they are smoked, a grill fueled by wood and charcoal. "A lot of the competitors here use propane, and we think the wood and charcoal gives us an advantage," Wayne said.
Vermillion's Ribs, Rods & Rock 'n Roll was a tiring, but rewarding experience for the Florida team.
"This is one of our last shows for this year … we're going to go home and do a small show there, and then it will be time to sit down and relax," Wayne said.