It’s mid-August? Time to head over to the Ulster County Fairgrounds in New Paltz, where the tenth iteration of the Hudson Valley RibFest will be found Friday through Sunday, August 15 to 17. Friday is an evening affair, from 5 to 10 p.m.; then grounds are open on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Organizers of the three-day event say that it’s actually three events in one: a food festival, a music festival and a competitive barbecue contest where winners can advance to the national finals in Kansas City. Single-day admission to RibFest costs $5 ($4 if tickets are purchased in advance at sponsor Hannaford supermarkets) and a three-day pass is available for $10. Kids under age 12 are admitted free. There’s also a VIP package for Friday night, which includes the three-day pass along with a “Best of the Fest” event with all-you-can-eat ribs and sides, six beer or soda tickets and a VIP gift bag.
The food festival has all of the things that you’d find at a county fair – hot dogs, hamburgers, French fries, fried pickles, fried dough, milkshakes, smoothies, lemonade, kettle corn, soft pretzels, fudge, cider donuts and roasted sweet corn – but it’s the barbecue that’s at the heart of it all. Restaurants from New Jersey to Philadelphia are represented along with more local options, each offering full dinners with sides or individual portions of chicken, brisket or racks of ribs.
One of the best ways to do the Fest is to get half-racks of ribs from multiple vendors – the choices are all so different in taste and texture – and share the bounty with a friend. The lines can be long at each individual vendor, but splitting up accomplishes the task; and with a stop at the centrally located beer tent, which also sells bottled mojitos and such, you’re all set.
On Friday night, live entertainment will be provided by country solo artist Lindsey Erin at 6:15 p.m. and country music family trio Angel Mary & the Tennessee Werewolves at 8:15 p.m. Saturday afternoon will highlight the final round of the local competition of the 33rd annual Country Showdown competition, taking the stage on Saturday at 1 p.m. There will be four acts, with one winner advancing to the state level. Following the competition will be solo country artist Chelsea Cavanaugh at 5 p.m., followed by the Little Creek Band at 6:30 p.m., billed as “a country rock/Irish music mashup.” Sunday’s entertainment includes the high-energy country/pop of Jessica Lynn, who will wind up her nationwide summer tour at 1:15 p.m., followed by the Stephen Alexander Band at 3:30 p.m. with an eclectic mix of country, blues, bluegrass and rock.
Kids’ Korner activities at the RibFest include crafts, a bouncy house, a climbing wall and a dunking booth. For adults, there’s a setup of shops selling specialty foods to take home.
Then there’s the barbecue competition. The competitors have their own encampment on site where they hang out apart from the general festivities. As a visitor to the RibFest, wandering back to where the competitors have set up their smokers and grills, it feels like one has stumbled into a previously unknown village filled with a community of like-minded souls and the scent of smoky barbecue. But they don’t pay much mind to visitors, as they’re immersed in competing for more than $10,000 in prize money.
The Hudson Valley RibFest is affiliated with the Empire State BBQ Championship Challenge, a statewide series of competitive barbecue events intended to promote the love of barbecue. The local event will have more than 50 teams competing for those cash prizes and the title of Grand Champion.
On Saturday afternoon, the New England Barbecue Society grilling contest will hold an apple dessert competition, showcasing apples in honor of the Hudson Valley’s premier agricultural product. Hudson Valley apples must be part of the dessert entry and not merely a garnish. The Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) competition will be held on Sunday.
The Hudson Valley RibFest is organized every year by the Highland Rotary Club, who harness the power of several hundred volunteers to get things done. The proceeds from the RibFest enable the service club to fund and support its many projects and causes promoting humanitarian services and world peace.
Hudson Valley RibFest, Friday, August 15, 5-10 p.m., Saturday, August 16, 11 a.m-10 p.m., Sunday, August 17, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., $5/day, $10/3-day pass, Ulster County Fairgrounds, 249 Libertyville Road, New Paltz; (845) 306-4381, www.hudsonvalleyribfest.org. Read more about local cuisine and learn about new restaurants on Ulster Publishing’s www.DineHudsonValley.com or www.HudsonValleyAlmanacWeekly.com.