'Brisket Bob' Ledvina slathers on the sauce to his ribs as they sizzle on the grill at the Pig's Foot booth, one of nine at the 28th Northwest Ohio Rib-Off at the Lucas County Fairgrounds in Maumee.
The recipe for the annual Northwest Ohio Rib-Off typically includes the following ingredients: 1 part slow-cooked ribs and 1 part national music acts.
But this year's event, which continues Sunday from noon to 7:30 p.m. at the Lucas County Fairgrounds, includes some extra spice (and no, we're not talking about Motor City Madman Ted Nugent, whose at-times spicy headline act drew about 14,000 people Friday night).
New additions this year include an airborne-dog competition and a five-ride carnival midway, which gave the Blade-sponsored event a distinctly family oriented flavor.
Just ask 6-year-old Lane Franklin of Maumee. "This is funner than riding the rides," he said as he watched a black Lab leap 23 feet through the air and land with a splash.
The Ultimate Air Dogs competition, sponsored by The Andersons, drew such a large crowd Saturday afternoon that event organizers had to fork-lift additional bleachers to the side of the 40-foot-long pool into which canines landed with a splash after becoming airborne.
Rib-Off attendees could pay $10 to let their dogs take practice jumps or $20 to compete.
As the competition began at about 1 p.m., the Baha Men's "Who Let the Dogs Out" blared over the sound system.
"This is our national anthem," joked Milt Wilcox, owner of Ultimate Air Dogs and a former Detroit Tigers pitcher.
Competitors ranged from rookies such as Hazard, a golden retriever from Maumee who refused to jump at first but eventually recorded a respectable 7 feet, 4 inches, to pros such as Zoom, a black Lab from Put-in-Bay who launched 24 feet, 6 inches to earn the first-round record.
The competition continues Sunday at 1 p.m., with finals at 3 p.m.
Maumee resident Alex Turner, 13, licks his fingers after eating a pulled pork sandwich.
Todd Kilpatrick of Columbus watched as his 12-year-old daughter Abby spun in dizzying circles on a ride called The Hurricane.
"We've been coming for 21 years," the Bowling Green State University graduate said. "It's a lot better this year."
He liked the two large tents -- new this year -- that provided shade for those scarfing down ribs. "You're not roasting like the ribs themselves," he said.
Of course, the ribs themselves were a big draw too. There are nine rib vendors this year, including three Toledo-area firms: Famous Dave's of West Toledo, Deet's BBQ of Maumee, and We Are Ribs of South Toledo. While they had the home-field advantage, their displays were dwarfed by the pipe-and-canvases of the out-of-town ribbers.
Steve Vaughn, manager of Texas Outlaws, stood beneath his 25-foot tall, 38-foot wide display that boasted 18 first-place finishes in rib contests from Nevada to Canada.
A table had rib-contest trophies, some the size of small children. "It takes mostly all day to set up," Mr. Vaughn said. "Eight to 10 hours."
Rib-Off attendees can vote for their favorite ribs at The Blade booth.
Mr. Vaughn said he was hoping to add to his list of first place finishes. "Everybody wants the bragging rights," he said.
Ted Nugent performs Friday at the 28th Northwest Ohio Rib-Off at the Lucas County Fairgrounds in Maumee, Ohio, in front of more than 14,000 people.
PHOTO BY DAVID YONKE Enlarge
Local vendors weren't intimidated, though.
"Banners mean nothing," said Famous Dave's general manager Matthew Kinner. "Our ribs speak for themselves."
He said Mr. Nugent's performance drew large crowds Friday night. "We had a line from here to the funnel-cake guy," he said, pointing to a vendor a few hundred feet away.
Every attendee seemed to have their own methodology for choosing which ribs to try.
Some looked for the longest lines. Others drew on past experience.
"We talked to the owners about how they cooked them," said Leigh Snider of Brighton, Mich.
Her 11 year-old-daughter, Deanna, relied on another factor: "How they smelled," she said.
Mike Mori, event organizer and Blade advertising director, said more than 18,000 people attended the Rib-Off from Thursday to Friday. He anticipated another big turnout yesterday for country signer Clay Walker. Tickets benefit local charities.
The Rib-Off continues Sunday with world music. Admission is free all day, compliments of Cedar Creek Church.
Contact Tony Cook at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6065.