Pigs descend on Van Wert. (Photo by Anita Smith)
Pigs descend on Van Wert. (Photo by Anita Smith)

VAN WERT — “Saturday’s hot weather had a negative effect on attendance at this year’s Rib Fest,” said Larry Lee, Executive Director of the Van Wert Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “But overall we’d call this year’s event a success.”

According to Lee, attendance was up from last year on Friday night and, while the crowd was steady late Saturday afternoon and evening, receipts indicate a smaller attendance than last year. “The vendors were well pleased with their sales,” he said, and all of them would like to be invited back next year.”

Vicki Smith, Executive Director of the United Way of Van Wert County, said the smaller attendance had a negative impact on the annual When Pigs Fly event. “We sold over 500 tickets this year and we cleared about $1,400 that’s going to go towards our campaign. We are funding 33 programs this year in Van Wert County. We gave out $500 for the closest to the pin. That was Kevin and Kathy Wilcox of Ohio City. The farthest away from the target was Al Saylor. We were down a little bit in ticket sales. Last year we sold around 590.”

Smith thought the United Way might make a few changes to the When Pigs Fly event next year. She mentioned they might wait instead of dropping pigs at 4 p.m. and start selling tickets earlier.

Awards were presented for best ribs and best sauce as chosen by a panel of judges and for people’s choice. Judges this year were Andy Lynch, WLTW TV44 reporter, Tom Riggenbach, Van Wert County Sheriff; Jason Landers, Paulding County Sheriff; Jayson Geiser, WLIO TV Sports Director; Chris Dary, WANE TV reporter; Alexis Shear, ABC 21 news anchor; Angelica Robinson, WANE TV reporter; Greg Blackmore, Van Wert City Police Officer; and Julian Teekaram, ABC 21 new reporter.

Judges awarded third place Best Sauce award to Timmy’s BBQ, second place Best Sauce award to Low & Slow BBQ, and first place Best Sauce award to After Hours BBQ. They also awarded third place Best Ribs to BG’s Main Event, second place to Pigtails BBQ and first place Best Ribs to Timmy’s BBQ. Those attending were given the opportunity to vote for their favorite ribs with third place going to BG’s Main Event, second place to After Hours BBQ, and first place to Timmy’s BBQ.

The crowd enjoyed entertainment on Friday night from Backlit 419, Shelby County Line and Poets and Pirates-The Kenny Chesney Tribute. On Saturday Hot “N’ Nasty, Moving in Stereo-The Cars Tribute Band, and The Breakout Experience – the Bon Jovi Tribute were on the Cooper Entertainment Stage.

According to Lee, The Rib Fest Committee will be meeting in the next couple of weeks to review and critique this year’s event and begin looking at options and planning for Rib Fest 2019.

Lee would like to extend a huge thank you to this year’s Rib Fest sponsors including: Cooper Farms, Avangrid Renewables, Edward Jones Investments-Ryan Lindemann, Citizens National Bank, WERT/WKSD Radio, Steve Wood Trucking, Dale & Marcia Davies, First Financial Bank, Leland Smith Insurance, Scott Equity Exchange, Purmort Brothers, Young’s Trash Service, Ayers Mechanical, First Bank of Berne, Van Wert Propane, Martha Balyeat, Koch Law Office, Miller Precision, Van Wert Manor, and Tisha Fast State Farm Insurance. The Rib Fest committee would also like to acknowledge the assistance of the following businesses who provided various forms of expertise: ELMCO Engineering, Store and Haul, Partee Shop, Huggy Bear RV Sales and Service, GLM Transport, KennFeld Group, Wallace Plumbing, and Delphos Tent and Awning.