The Hudson Valley RibFest returns to the Ulster County Fairgrounds

Jessica and Ava Spadafora of New Paltz enjoy their lunch at last year’s Hudson Valley Ribfest. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Jessica and Ava Spadafora of New Paltz enjoy their lunch at last year’s Hudson Valley Ribfest. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Just thinking about the annual Hudson Valley RibFest has been known to cause a Pavlovian craving for barbecue in susceptible individuals. But should one be afflicted with a hankering for smoky, sweet and savory meats cooked low and slow, the cure for that is at hand: the Ulster County Fairgrounds on Libertyville Road will once again host a celebration of all things barbecue at the 11th annual Hudson Valley RibFest Friday through Sunday, August 14-16, rain or shine.

Single-day general admission to RibFest costs $7 for adults and is free for kids under age 12. Advance tickets are available for $5 online at or at Hannaford supermarkets (the primary RibFest sponsor). A three-day admission ticket costs $10.


RibFest opens the gates on Friday from 5-10 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Plenty of parking is available and included with admission.

There is also a “Best of the Fest” VIP package for Friday evening, sold in limited quantities online at a cost of $75 per person. The VIP package includes unlimited ribs and barbeque, beer, wine, soda and water, samples from RibFest vendors, side dishes, desserts and a VIP gift bag, all served up in an adults-only tented area. The tent opens at 5 p.m. with food served from 6-9 p.m.

The RibFest is organized every year by the Highland Rotary Club, who enlist hundreds of volunteers to put on the three-day event. The proceeds from the fundraising festival enable the service club to support their many projects locally and promote humanitarian causes worldwide.

And they’ll tell you that RibFest is 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.


The food festival

The food festival has all of the things you’d expect to find at a county fair: hot dogs, hamburgers, fried pickles, fried dough, milkshakes, smoothies, lemonade, kettle corn, soft pretzels, Italian ices, homemade pie and cider donuts and roasted sweet corn. But at center stage is barbecue in all its variations: hot and spicy, sweet or savory but always tender and falling off the bone. Repeat and new barbecue vendors will offer 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 and sample them all with a friend. The lines can be long at each individual purveyor, but it doesn’t take as long as one might think to reach the front of the line, and oh, the rewards. Make a stop at the centrally located beer tent, and you’re all set.

The family friendly event features a “RibFest Express” kiddy train to tour the fairgrounds and a kids’ section with crafts, activities, inflatable bouncy houses, climbing wall and dunking booth. For adults, cooking demonstrations featuring area chefs will be held in a special tent and there are plenty of specialty foods to purchase and take home for another day.


The music festival

On Friday evening, August 14, things will kick off with classic country and pop tunes by Alison Peratikos at 6 p.m. followed by Williams Honor from Asbury Park at 7:15 p.m. featuring singer Reagan Richards and multi-instrumentalist Gordon Brown singing modern country. At 8:15 p.m. Olivia Lane takes the stage with poignant, inspirational country songs.

Saturday’s lineup of entertainment begins at noon with WRWD’s Country Showdown Semi-Finals and country line dancing at 1:30 p.m. with the Premier Dancers. From 5-8 p.m. the Hudson Valley-based Cagneys will offer a mix of slow ballads and energetic rock performed with the group’s signature four-part harmonies. The evening’s entertainment will close with Lucy Angels from 8:15 to 9:45 p.m. The mother-and-daughters trio has opened for talents like Charlie Daniels, Montgomery Gentry and Neal McCoy.

Local band Touch of Rhythm will open up the stage on Sunday, August 16 at noon followed by a return visit from Jessica Lynn, just off her second national tour sharing the stage with performers including Keith Urban, Trace Adkins and Clint Black. Touch of Rhythm will close out the festival from 3:30-5 p.m.


The barbecue competition

The competitors have their own “village” on the fairgrounds behind the festival proper where they set up and compete for prize money (and bragging rights, of course). 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 in New Paltz will have 60 teams (up from 50 last year) competing for those cash prizes and the title of “Grand Champion.”

On Saturday afternoon, The New England Barbecue Society grilling contest will offer four categories for competitors: pizza, wrapped in bacon, sliders and an apple dessert competition. Sunday’s competitions will feature The Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS), who will compete in four different categories: chicken, pork ribs, pork butt/shoulder and beef brisket. ++


More information is available at and on Facebook.