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Published: Saturday, 8/9/2014 - Updated: 7 months ago

Ted Nugent rocks Toledo at Northwest Ohio Rib-Off

Rocker draws protest, support to annual event

Carole Jambard-Sweet of Maumee protests outside the Ted Nugent concert. Carole Jambard-Sweet of Maumee protests outside the Ted Nugent concert.

Rock and a bit of rancor took center stage Friday at the 31st Annual Northwest Ohio Rib-Off.

Controversial performer Ted Nugent and about a dozen people protesting his appearance overshadowed the mouthwatering barbecue featured at the Lucas County Fairgrounds event, which is sponsored by The Blade and continues through Sunday.

The Detroit guitarist and gun-rights supporter, whose big songs include “Cat Scratch Fever,” upset some groups with his history of making comments that opponents contend are racist, bigoted, and offensive.

Nugent took the stage wearing a sleeveless cutoff shirt. Within a few minutes, he addressed the criticism that preceded his performance.

“You came in defiance of the punks, so God bless you all,” he said. “We’ve got all the good people here.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here for photos from the concert

Targets of his derision have included President Obama, animal-rights supporters, and his own protesters. Nugent is an avid hunter and author of the cookbook Kill It and Grill It: A Guide To Preparing And Cooking Wild Game And Fish.

Community groups such as the Toledo branch of the NAACP, the Toledo Community Coalition, and the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence objected to the show and the newspaper’s sponsorship of the event.

“The Rib-Off is the biggest concert venue in Toledo every year, and I think you could pick somebody better,” said Dan Denton of Toledo, adding that Nugent “spews hate and intolerance.”

He won’t attend this year’s barbecue event, though he’s usually a fan of the food and music.

Instead, he joined about a dozen others on the sidewalk outside one of the entrance gates for a small protest that began about two hours before Nugent started his set.

Protesters held signs reading “Zip it, Ted,” “Grow up, Ted,” and “Toledo Blade Don’t Promote Hate.”

“It’s easy to be against racism when it’s talk, and not when it requires you to change your plans or change the structure of your organization,” said Sarah Coulter of Toledo.

Despite protests from individuals, Ted Nugent performs at the 31st annual Northwest Ohio Rib-Off. Despite protests from individuals, Ted Nugent performs at the 31st annual Northwest Ohio Rib-Off.

From the stage, Nugent blasted the protesters, calling them the “Barack Obama fan club.” 

“How much crazier can you get than having a President of the United States who hates the United States?” he asked.

Neither Nugent nor the protesters were happy with the newspaper.

“The Toledo Blade hates you,” Nugent told the crowd. “They hate your guts ...; They hate me. They hate freedom. So as long as you know the Toledo Blade hates you, you’re a good American.”

The Blade contracted with and paid Nugent to perform at the event.

An estimated 13,000 people were expected to attend the concert, said Mike Mori, the event director and director of sales for The Blade. Nugent performed twice before at previous Rib-Off events, and the nights he performed have been the festival’s biggest draws.

Mr. Mori said Nugent’s previous concerts garnered some objections from those opposed to his gun stance, but until this year’s event the racism concern had not come up.

Dan Denton of Toledo and others protest outside the Ted Nugent concert. Dan Denton of Toledo and others protest outside the Ted Nugent concert.

“Obviously if it had, I would have taken that into consideration,” he said.

Organizers remained committed to the concert, arranged last September.

“We made a deal. We have a contract with the guy,” Mr. Mori said. “I believe in honoring our contract.”

A scattering of Nugent’s fans milled about the venue in the hours before he appeared.

Julie Thomas of Toledo came with her youngest son. She’s seen the rocker perform about 13 times, dating back to the 1980s and 1990s. 

Asked about his detractors, Ms. Thomas turned her hands up and shrugged.

“Oooof,” she said. “I agree with him.”

Another fan, Doug Wilkinson of Point Place, Mich., stood out from the crowd in a gold helmet festooned with the antlers of an eight-point buck that he shot with a bow and arrow. 

He hoped to get Nugent to sign the homemade hat. Mr. Wilkinson supports the outspoken performer who had upset the protesters outside the fairgrounds.

Ted Nugent performs during the rib-off. Ted Nugent performs during the rib-off.

“I don’t know, that’s their opinion, I guess. I’ll always have Ted’s back,” he said.

Outside the venue, protesters felt support from numerous honking motorists who drove by and a few who flashed a thumbs-up sign. They also encountered a few others who approached them to preach their love for Nugent.

“There’s nothing wrong with Ted Nugent …; he’s all about hunting and fishing, the great outdoors,” said Kenneth Nowak of Toledo.

He stopped to talk to protesters as he walked by, proclaiming: “Nugent rules.” The rock singer has said things in the past that are “not right,” but he has since “clarified himself,” said Mr. Nowak, after he pulled a concert ticket out of his pocket.

“Best man in the world, and his music speaks loudly,” he said.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.

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