There are literally dozens of reasons to be excited about the upcoming Ribs, Rods & Rock 'n Roll event coming up in Vermillion.
The music. The car show. The smell and taste of finely barbecued ribs.
Each is a small, but vital part of the two day event that kicks off in downtown Vermillion Sept. 10.
Steve Howe is excited about all things, big and small, involved with Ribs, Rods & Rock 'n Roll.
Howe, the executive director of the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce and Development Company, gets the biggest thrill when he looks at the bigger picture – of everything that this annual event has come to mean for the community.
"Not only do the people of the community come to rely on an event like this," he said. "But when the region starts planning on it – that's when an event like this really starts to take off and become something special. It just brings so much more attention to the community."
The fun and lifestyle amenities that come along with an event like Ribs, Rods & Rock 'n Roll is an obvious benefit to the community, he said. The influx of people, ranging from USD students to people who drive long distances to participate in the activities, also provide a small boost to a host of local businesses.
"We're starting to see an increase in our visitor spending," Howe said. "And it's due to events like this – Ribs, Rods & Rock 'n Roll is now in it fifth year. And we are seeing more people come into the community from outside, spending money in our motels, restaurants and other businesses. If we didn't have events like this, I don't think we'd be seeing that spending increase."
The event has been advertised on billboards and in local print and broadcast media. The public is being reminded, he said, that this signature happening of the community will soon be here.
"People are coming to expect that it is going to be here," Howe said. "And it's just what we want out of a regional event like this – people are making plans regionally to come to Vermillion during that time."
The annual event will kick off Friday, Sept. 10 in downtown Vermillion with the 5 p.m. opening of the Rib Fest food court and beer garden in the downtown business district. Those two venues will stay open until 1 a.m. Saturday.
Other attractions that will be available at 5 p.m. that evening include a CorTrust Family Fun Area that will include sidewalk vendors, and the Eagles Motorcycle Show and Shine.
"The event will be very similar to last year," said Jenny French, a member of the Ribs, Rods & Rock 'n Roll planning committee who is in charge helping to organize the event's barbecue, concessions and food vendors. "This year, however, we added a motorcycle show and shine on Friday night and on Saturday night we're staying open and having another street dance. Last year, the event got over at about 6 or 7 p.m. Saturday, and there were a lot of requests to keep it going. So we got another good band, and we're going to be open and have another street dance Saturday night."
The Hy-Vee entertainment tent will open at 6 p.m. Friday. Entertainment will begin at 6:30 p.m. with the Golden Bubbles Band, followed by the Manna Band at 7:30 p.m. Friday's street dance, featuring the band Judd Hoos, starts at 9 p.m.
Saturday's activities begin with the Eagle Rider Charity Poker Run breakfast and registration scheduled from 9 to 11 a.m. The poker run will begin at 11 a.m.
Registration for the Classic Car and Cycle Show and Shine will be held from 10 a.m. to noon. The CorTrust Family Fun Area and the Rib Fest Food Court and Beer Garden will re-open at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Judging of the South Dakota BBQ championship will be held from noon to 2 p.m., and the Dakota Classic Cruisers Car and Cycle Show and Shine will be held from noon to 4 p.m.
Musical entertainment will begin Saturday at 1 p.m., with the C.J. Kocher Band, followed by the Public Domain Band at 2 p.m.
A new element to this year's Ribs, Rods & Rock n Roll event will be a corn cob cooking demonstration at 2 p.m. by Larry Mart. From 2 to 4 p.m., people's choice public BBQ judging will be held, and the Tele Jazz Band will perform at 3 p.m.
Howe is particularly pleased with the event's venue – in historic downtown Vermillion. It's a place where visitors can visit the newly constructed plaza recently named Ratingen Platz in honor of the city's sister community in Germany, while being surrounded by historic buildings housing vibrant businesses.
"If you create the environment, then the activity happens," he said. "The city made the commitment to spend public dollars on public places, and constructed the new downtown plaza. Now, people are looking for things to put there. When you follow that amenity with some encouragement by people who are really trying to grow the downtown area, suddenly things are happening there."
The Car Show Poker Run is scheduled from 4 to 6 p.m., Saturday, and the South Dakota BBQ Championship Award presentation will be held at 4:30 p.m.
Musical entertainment begins again at 6 p.m. Sept. 11, with the Black Cats Band, followed by Paradise Fears at 7:30 p.m.
The 2010 Ribs, Rods & Rock' n Roll will conclude with a street dance that begins at 9 p.m. Sept. 11 to the music of The Kick Back.
About Ribs, Rods & Rock' n Roll
Ribs, Rods & Rock' n Roll is a Kansas City BBQ Society (KCBS) sanctioned event held annually in downtown Vermillion. Rids & Robs is the largest competitive barbeque event in the history of South Dakota. The primary purpose of Ribs, Rods & Rock' n Roll is to expand and to promote a successful state event, to celebrate Vermillion's rich barbeque history, and to welcome University of South Dakota students back to Vermillion.
That "barbecue history" can be traced back to 1940, when a group of barbeque enthusiasts from the Norway Township west of Vermillion came up with the idea to host a rib feed at an area know as Wery Grove where the Clay County rodeo grounds is now located. However, the group was faced with a dilemma.
How could they produce quality ribs with a sweet smoky barbequed flavor without a ready supply of hickory, fruitwood or other traditional barbeque heat sources?
Corncobs were a natural choice, but these barbeque pros knew that burning cobs produced a level of heat far too intense to be used for the low and slow heat needed to properly barbeque ribs. This problem was remedied by pre-burning the cobs in a small pile until they cooked down to embers. A scoop shovel was then used to place the coals under the grates of makeshift grills.
While the Norway Rib Eaters were not the first to cook over cobs, they were the first to turn it into an art form. Their modest size rib feeds grew as time went on. The first rib feed served just over 50 people but in later years, they would prepare over 1,000 pounds of ribs at a single event. In the 1970s, Rib Eater protégés Larry Mart and Paul Bliss cooked over a ton of ribs at a time for several events in the area.
Cooking over corncob embers is a tradition that soon spread throughout South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. It is also a tradition that has been passed along from father to son (in some cases mother to daughter), representing five generations of barbeque tradition in this region. While it is much harder to find cobs today due to the fact that very few farmers shell corn as they did in the past, there are still some hardcore traditionalists that make the effort to find those remaining cobs in an effort to perpetuate a tradition rich in South Dakota history.
That history still lives in Vermillion, in part, Howe said, because of the community's "risk takers" – the people who have invested their lives into the future well-being of the city. They have filled the storefronts in the downtown business district. They have, simply on their own, transformed Main Street and surrounding area of downtown into a vital, lively place.
"They are trying to make something exciting happen," he said. "It's starting to build on itself. It wasn't forced, and that's the best way for it to be successful."
For more information, visit Ribs, Rods & Rock' n Roll's website at www.sdbbqchampionship.com.