Bill Ball, owner of Mojo's Rib Shack in Coolville, Ohio, near the West Virginia border, loads his smoker with 144 racks of ribs.
Despite dreary skies and sweater-wearing temperatures, Terry and Mary Hersch dug into their plates of pulled pork, ribs, and assorted side dishes.
The Perrysburg couple have been regular attendees of the Northwest Ohio Rib-Off for years.
"No one comes here for the long bathroom lines or to buy tickets to get drinks. They come here for the ribs," said Mr. Hersch, a retired carpenter.
Zoe Edwards, 9, of Maumee sinks her teeth into a rib at the 29th annual Northwest Ohio Rib-Off at the Lucas County Fairgrounds.
The air at the Lucas County Fairgrounds was thick with smoke from the grills, smokers, and cookers at food stands of the seven national rib vendors and three local restaurants.
The Hersches said the assortment of menus offered by the barbecue vendors is a big attraction because they are assured of getting something they like.
"We have gotten some really good ones and we have some OK ones," Mrs. Hersch said. "We also have some that we didn't want to finish."
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Armadillo's BBQ & Ribs of Youngstown, still basking from a pair of first-place finishes at last weekend's Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival Ribs Burnoff in Canton, offered a menu of ribs and brisket smothered in Georgia peach sauce as well as pulled pork and side dishes.
The Rib-Off in Maumee is somewhat of a homecoming for Armadillo's owner Cliff Mortimer, who spent some of his best years 20 miles south on I-75 at Bowling Green State University. A regular vendor since 1995, he cited the Northwest Ohio Rib-Off as among his favorite barbecue festivals.
"The big draw here is the entertainment," he said.
IF YOU GO
What: 29th annual Northwest Ohio Rib-Off.
Where: Lucas County Fairgrounds, 1406 Key St., Maumee.
Hours: Noon to 11 p.m. today and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.
Cost: Today, $10 for general admission; Sunday, free. Food and drink prices vary.
Mr. Mortimer said he probably would go through about 2,000 pounds of pork, brisket, and ribs and well over 250 gallons of barbecue sauce during the four-day festival.
The Rib-Off, which also includes carnival rides and food and beverage vendors, moved to the Maumee fairgrounds in 2006 after outgrowing its venue at Promenade Park in downtown Toledo.
When the Rib-Off winds down on Sunday, awards will be given for the best national and local vendor as well to the overall winner.
We-Are-Ribs on Wenz Road is among the local barbecue vendors represented at the Rib-Off. The restaurant won the Golden Rib and People's Choice in 2007, 2008, and 2009.
Owner James McDay said the competition is friendly among the vendors and there are never hard feelings at the end.
"We are all one big family here. We all have the same thing going: putting food in the mouths of hungry people and bringing in new customers," he said.
Ted Nugent is to headline today's entertainment.
He is expected to take the stage at 9 p.m.