considered a success by all accounts
MADISON, Ind. (Sept. 2002) It took Jeff Garrett
and his committee a year to plan the inaugural Madison Ribberfest. The
event lasted less than two days.
But most of those 6,000-plus people who attended would agree that it
was worth the wait. From all accounts, it was a success.
About 3,000 pre-event tickets were sold more than
had been expected. Dozens of professional cooking teams traveled to
Madison to take part in the first-ever Indiana State Championship Cook-Off,
which granted the winner an automatic berth in the Kansas City Barbecue
Societys national contest.
The food was good, the music was excellent (thanks in part to an $8,000
sound stage) and the weather cooperated. A crack security team ensured
that everyone paid to get in, and dozens of volunteers from as many
as 45 local organizations who took part gave the event a hometown feel.
Ribberfest planners and Madison tourism officials had initially hoped
of making it an annual event. Everything looked good late into Saturday
afternoon. But perhaps Belterra Casino Resort general manager Alain
Uboldi sealed the deal when he stepped onto the main stage and announced
he would gladly sponsor the event again next year. Belterra Casino paid
$10,000 this year to be the primary sponsor. Other top sponsors included
Craig Toyota, RE/MAX and Shoups Country Foods of Franklin, Ind.
Only the balloon races, which had been scheduled for Saturday, failed
to get off the ground because of dangerous upper elevation wind. The
balloons did, however, show their colors during a Friday evening balloon
glow on the McCoy property in Milton, Ky. The glow could be viewed from
the festival area along the Madison riverfront.
In the week following the Ribberfest, the food tickets were still being
counted, but officials estimated that more than $85,000 worth of food
and beverages were sold.
Garrett, meanwhile, literally went into the hospital to recover. Garrett
had developed a diabetic ulcer on his right foot the week of the event
and spent most of the weekend in the Brown Gym trying to stay off his
feet. The week following the festival, Garrett spent three nights in
the hospital hooked up to an antibiotic I.V.
There arent enough positive adjectives to describe the reaction
Ive gotten since the event. Ive received over 60 emails
alone, Garrett said. Its been spectacular.
Garrett, 46, a former Madison city councilman, Madison Regatta president,
Chamber of Commerce president and tourism official, had previously been
involved in hotel and restaurant management, and owned his own event
security company in Indianapolis prior to moving back to Madison last
year. Because of heart problems, he was forced to sell his business
and retire early.
Once back in Madison he was tapped by tourism officials to chair the
Ribberfest committee. He immersed himself in the sport, recruited local
residents to become certified judges and learned the unique sport of
barbecue cook-offs, traveling to events in Cairo, Ill., and Winchester,
I love it; and the people associated with this sport are great,
Festival-goers were allowed to sample ribs, chicken, sauces and other
items during the amateur and pro division cook-offs. Nick and Don Sena
of Cincinnati won the amateur division.
Saturdays pro cooking contest produced overall Grand Champion
Smokin in the Dark, a Springfield, Mo., duo comprised
of Larry Randolph and Brad Rapp. They edged out the second place Lee
and Bobbi McWright of Nashville, Tenn.
This is the best organized first-time barbecue event that Ive
ever had the pleasure of being associated with, said Randolph.
The music part of it is nice because it attracts the crowd. And
riverfront atmosphere is great. And there wasnt one thing that
we could think of needing that hadnt already been provided. Ill
bet next year will be twice as big.
Garrett is already are working on securing sponsors for next year. He
wants to book the bands by January. And he hopes to double the number
of pro cooking teams.
Were going to strike while the iron is hot, Garrett
No pun intended.
Back to September 2002 Articles.