It was only after Michael McDonald’s second song when he started thanking the stage and touring crew Friday night at The Blade’s 35th Annual Northwest Ohio Rib Off at the Lucas County Fairgrounds.
“We want to especially thank you guys for coming out in the rain tonight like this,” he said while sitting at his piano looking out into the crowd.
During the first 10 minutes of his set, he opened with James Ingram’s 1983 song “Yah Mo Be There,” which McDonald was featured on, followed by the Doobie Brothers’ 1978 song “Here To Love You,” and his 1982 track “I Keep Forgettin.’”
PHOTO GALLERY: Northwest Ohio Rib Off
VIDEO: Northwest Ohio Rib Off
Day two of the four-day festival brought rain that started at 6:30 p.m. and didn’t clear until about 8 p.m that had people walking throughout the fairgrounds wearing ponchos and holding umbrellas. Many also huddled together under a large food tent until the weather cleared.
The weather didn’t prevent Tim Brown, 66, of Maumee from enjoying a slab of ribs Friday afternoon.
He said this year was his fourth time to the Rib Off, and he enjoys the music just as much as the food.
“In the times they are now it is really important to have something like this,” he said. “They need something like this to get us together.”
There were 12 rib vendors from the local area and outside of Ohio lined along the edge of the festival that had their grills fired up all day starting at noon.
One of those vendors included Mojo’s Rib Shack from New Franklin, Ohio.
Owner Chris Hanley said his rib business participates in 13 festivals each year between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Aside from ribs, Mr. Hanley said their brisket is another crowd favorite.
“When you mix ribs and music they complement each other,” he said. “When [people] come here and listen to music and eat they’re hanging out longer, buying more beer, buying more food, and are being entertained.”
Another vendor from Athens, Ga., included Armadillos Rib and BBQ Co.
“This gets our name out and spreads the brand,” said Chris Hanley, co-owner and operator. “Doing shows like this that is this far from home gets the word out.”
When the rain stopped at 8 p.m., United Kingdom soul/acoustic blues duo Ida Mae opened for McDonald.
The duo, made up of Chris Turpin and Stephanie Jean, who are married, were dressed in black and played 10 songs in a 40-minute set. Friday night was the first time the duo has visited Ohio. They recently moved to Nashville.
“A sense of community in music is something that has existed for [a long time] and it’s important to strengthen that,” Mr. Turpin said. “It’s nice to combine the two and getting people exposed to things they wouldn’t normally do.”
While there were more than a couple of thousand people who attended Friday’s Rib Off, organizers are expecting more than 10,000 guests at Saturday’s festival, said Luann Sharp, The Blade’s marketing and creative services director.
Known for his hits such as “Hard To Love,” “Parking Lot Party,” and “I Drive Your Truck,” country musician Lee Brice will headline Saturday’s Rib Off after a performance from opening act Kasey Tyndall. Thursday’s festival attracted about 3,000 people.
This year’s Rib Off is presented by Taylor Automotive Family, and sponsored by Tireman, Budweiser, Fin Feather Fur Outfitters, Elizabeth Scott Community, TAS, and the U.S. Army.
Rib vendor winners will be announced at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
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