The 18th Annual Wabash Ribberfest
Wabash Ribberfest BBQ Championship, hosted in Mt. Carmel, Illinois, 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, with MIM teams severely constricting travel, Ribberfest turned to KCBS as its single sanctioning body. As was the case with MIM, about 25 teams participated annually through 2010.
Looking back at Ribberfest 13, in 2011, nineteen teams participated in the festival held the second week of September, drawing about 1,200 visitors. After skipping 2012 in order to move to a spring date, Ribberfest 14 involved 32 teams and about 2,500 guests on the fourth full weekend of April 2013.
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 showcase 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 event 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. And on Saturday, “Tasten’ For The Haven”, offering pulled pork samples from a dozen teams, donated nearly $900 to Safe Haven, a homeless shelter for women and children.
The 2017 Backyard event, “Smoke On The Wabash”, features nearly 20 amateur teams competing for trophies, prizes and braggin’ rights!
There are also many other non-barbeque events, including an Art Exhibit, Wine Garden, Motorcycle Show, Craft Fair and Cornhole Tournament, as well as the 4th Annual Wabash Cannonball Downhill Race, featuring about 2 dozen homemade racers and coordinated by the local Kiwanis club. Also on Market Street will be a number of booths offering handmade crafts and homemade sweet treats.
There will be about 12 hours of live music onstage, to be enjoyed by this year’s guests, expected to number nearly 9,000.
Ribberfest 18, scheduled this year for April 28th and 29th on Mt. Carmel’s Market Street, will continue to move toward its stated goal of becoming the premier BBQ related festival in Southern Illinois.