What do you get when you cross seventeen world-class local barbecue teams, one great cause and a whole lot of napkins? Lake Bluff’s tenth annual RibFest, of course! The freewill donation event – with money going to the Shields Township Food Pantry – raised over $3,463 this year at their event, which was held on Saturday, Oct. 6.
“This is a wonderful community event,” said Gale Strenger Wayne, Shields Township Supervisor. “It started out as fun for the guys, and it took on a very important role of giving back to the community.”
Barbecue lovers young and old lined up at the booths of the seventeen participants to sample their menus (which included everything from Asian Chicken Wings at one booth to grilled pork belly at another). Patrons would then purchase votes – at $1 each – to go toward their favorite winning the coveted “People’s Choice Award” (With the money going toward the Shields Township Food Pantry). This year’s People’s Choice Award raised $2,632, with the Circle Jerks winning for the third year in a row with over $1,218 raised. In second place, Team Sticky Fingers raised $325, followed by Pork Place in third place (with $171). Team Pork Place was the grand winner of the judge’s voting.
For Larry Levin, who has grilling up crowd pleasers at the RibFest for three years now, the event is a family affair.
“My son is a graduate of culinary school,” he said. “He came up with our hand out for this year – pork shoulder with pickles and onions…Our view of this is it’s a community effort. We’re trying to raise as much as we can for the food pantry, and connect with our community and people [who come in from] outside of the community. Plus it’s a chance for us to show off Lake Bluff!”
Levin noted the secret to good barbecue is keeping it “low and slow”.
“We have a secret rub,” he said. “But you basically have to take care with the cooking – keep a low temperature over an extended period of time.”
While the awe-inspiring assortment of meat is definitely a plus for patrons of the event, it’s also about coming out and being together with the community – as evidenced by longtime attendee Christine Konkol, who is also a vegetarian.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “It’s a fun-filled community event. We look forward to it every year, and we have neighbors who are participating. I’m actually a vegetarian, so my husband is the one who eats, and he enjoys it! There’s a real sense of community.
Jim Wicks, who was at the event with his team Aeroswine, noted that the secret to his team’s success was love.
“The secret is doing the ribs that you love, and not the ribs that you think someone else will love,” he said. “Don’t change your recipe for someone else, do it because you love it – I do it because my wife, kids, friends and family love it. And they do give you reviews!”
Aeroswine as assisted by a bevy of 5th and 7th grade girls – including Allie and Katie Wicks (his daughters), Emily Hart, Catherine Terkildsen, Emma O’Conner and Sarah Pazen. The girls helped serve throughout the day, and even assisted in preparing the night before.
“My dad basically made it,” Allie said. “I tried it and I’d give him my opinion – but I don’t know if he listened!”
Aeroswine’s menu included Dick’s Carolina pulled pork, Asian chicken wings, BBQ Andoulle sausage and pablano marinade flank steak.
But perhaps the most creative dish at RibFest was served up by one of the event’s founders, Christian Erzinger, with his team Pignastic. His specialty? Barbecued bologna.
“It doesn’t suck!” he’d joke with hesitant passerbys. (He was right – the southern delicacy was a hit with everyone who tried it.)
“I started this event ten years ago,” he said on the founding of RibFest. “I was with a bunch of buddies on the 4th of July. My buddy brought ribs and said, ‘You have to taste these.’ But I thought I made better, so we decided to have a competition.
But one thing was definitely clear with the Lake Bluff RibFest – with seventeen teams and seventeen very different menus, there was definitely something for everyone.