The “Wabash Ribberfest BBQ Championship”, hosted here in Mt. Carmel, was organized in 1999 as a two-day “Memphis In May” sanctioned Illinois State BBQ Championship. This association continued through the 10th Annual event in 2008, when Ribberfest was also sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society, setting up the first (and at that time only) duel event in the country.
In 2009, Ribberfest turned to KCBS as its single sanctioning body. As was the case with MIM, about 25 teams participated annually through 2010.
2014, the festival’s 15th year, was expanded to allow 50 teams entry into the competition, along with a number of non-competitive food vendors for the first time ever. Teams were also given the opportunity to sell product, as well as enter multiple competitions that showcased their barbequing talents. This expansion of teams and public menu options drove the attendance to a record 7,000 guests.
In 2015, Wabash Ribberfest Inc. continued its efforts to become more of a community partner by donating proceeds of specific events to local charities. The “Rib Burn-Off”, a People’s Choice event on Friday evening involving teams preparing ribs that are sold to the public, made a donation of well over $500 to the Wabash County Senior Citizens Center. And on Saturday, “Tasten’ For The Haven”, offering pulled pork samples from a dozen teams, donated nearly $900 to Safe Haven Homeless Shelter. These tasting opportunities will be continued this year.
2016 will bring an expanded “Smoke On The Wabash” Backyard Competition. Participation has grown steadily over the past 4 years, and we could see over 20 “amateur” teams cooking for bragging rights and prizes.
There are also many non-barbeque events. On Friday and Saturday you can enjoy “The Wine Garden at Neikirk’s”, peruse “Art at the Museum” (and vote for your favorites), and stroll the “Vendor Village” offering crafts, sweets and treats. Saturday offers the “Thunder On The Hilltop” Motorcycle Show and the Championship Cornhole Tournaments, as well as the 3rd Annual Wabash Cannonball Downhill Race, featuring about 2dozen homemade racers and coordinated by the Mt. Carmel Kiwanis Club.
You might choose to enjoy some or all of the 12 hours of live onstage music being offered to this year’s guests, expected to number nearly 9,000. Those guests will also have dozens of delicious food items to choose from, sold by several KCBS Competitive Team Vendors, along with a number of other professional food vendors.
Ribberfest 17 is scheduled this year for April 22nd and 23rd on Mt. Carmel’s Market Street. Free Parking, Free Admission, Free Entertainment. Ribberfest, we’ve got it all!