to celebrate the citys pork packing history
Two-day event to feature
pro/amateur barbecue cooking contests,
blues music and balloon races
MADISON, Ind. (August 2002) What does a professional
barbecue cook off, two days of blues bands, a balloon race and concrete
pigs on the streets of Madison have in common? They will all be a part
of the first annual Madison Ribberfest, taking place on the banks of
the Ohio River Aug. 16-17 in downtown Madison.
This event, which plans to celebrate the heritage of the area, along
with the contributions of blues music, has included the participation
and hard work of not only local residents but also from people all over
the country. Jeff Garrett, event director for the new festival, has
been planning the event for nearly a year and has high expectations
for the weekend.
The community will be exposed to some really fine barbecue, along
with good, solid entertainment, he says.
Garrett explained that the idea for the festival was generated
by tourism director Linda Lytle and Madison Mayor Al Huntington, who
both wanted to organize a festival that recognizes the agricultural
aspect of the community. Garrett soon joined the planning and became
event director, whose job is to put the festival together from
the beginning, from top to bottom, he said.
The main focus of the festival will be the Saturday night barbecue cook-off.
The Kansas City BBQ Society, the largest organization of barbecue enthusiasts
in the world, has sanctioned the event, and Indiana Gov. Frank OBannon
has proclaimed the competition the official state contest. This means
the winner of the professional division will earn a berth in the national
cookoff, making the event attractive to contestants nationwide.
The contest will include four different cooking sections: chicken, pork
shoulder, ribs and beef brisket. There will also be live blues music
Friday night and all day Saturday, and two balloon races on Saturday,
sponsored by RE/MAX of Indiana. With competitors coming from as far
as Nashville, Tenn., to participate, the Madison Ribberfest is sizing
up to be a big deal to big-time barbecue enthusiasts.
This is a very serious barbecue competition, Garrett said.
Although Garrett thinks barbecue competitions are big now, Ribberfest
contestant and current U.S. champion Lee McWright says that they can
only grow bigger. McWright, a 50-year-old Nashville, Tenn., resident,
said in a July telephone interview that he has been a barbecue enthusiast
all his life and a serious competitor since 1992. He has competed in
more than 150 contests and won 15, capturing numerous other titles.
He became aware of the Madison competition in January and met Garrett
at another contest earlier this year.
McWright says he is excited to visit the unique town of Madison and
even more excited to share the joy of the social aspects of the barbecue
I bet that the No. 1 amateur sport in the U.S.A. is grilling.
Just look outside at your neighbors homes. Almost every one of
them has a grill, said McWright.
Also exciting for Madison is that McWright will be vending in addition
to competing during the festival, so that everyone can come and sample
his award-winning barbecue. McWright and his wife, Bobbie, often compete
together in cook-offs and own a catering business in Nashville called
Music City Catering.
In addition to great food and blues, Garrett said the festival will
celebrate the not-so-distant past of Madisons porkpacking days
and its shining title of being the porkopolis of the Midwest.
There is such a strong history of porkpacking in Madison in the
1800s, even more so than Cincinnati and Chicago, says Garrett.
He added that this historic industry has relevance for today, since
it started so many other businesses in Madison that supported the pork
houses. So not only did the porkpacking industry help the agricultural
community flourish, the commercial side benefited greatly as well, says
In addition to having a barbecue cook-off for the festival, the strange
sight of decorated concrete pigs along the streets of Madison can also
be attributed to historic zeal. Like wayward moose on the streets of
Ontario, Canada, Madison had its share of wandering pigs during the
height of its pork packing days. Garrett explained that when live pigs
were being shipped to the pork houses to be processed, some inevitably
escaped and roamed free, thus a stray pig became a common sight for
Madisonians at the turn of the century.
The wayward hogs of the 1800s on the street corners gave us the
idea for Pigmania, the contest for decorating the concrete
pigs, Garrett said.
While barbecue enthusiasts from different states are gearing up for
the cook-off, local residents are also fine tuning their skills at grilling
as well as judging.
Sean and David Auxier of Hanover Ind., attended a Kansas City BBQ Society-sponsored
judging school in Madison in early June to become certified judged.
The brothers were among 25 students who attended the school. Many, including
the Auxiers, will judge at the Madison Ribberfest.
At the five-hour course, students learned the three different aspects
in judging: appearance, tenderness and taste. The Auxiers also explained
that the judging is composed of 24 judges, or four teams of six, who
are presented the meat in a box with only a number on it, so that the
judges do not know who cooked it.
The Auxiers say they are excited about cooking and judging, and they
hope to organize a competitive team in the near future. But David says
he is even more excited to see the new festival bring music, barbecue
and other unique entertainment to the community.
This is a real asset for Madison, he said. I think
the turnout will grow every year.
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