OTTAWA — The smell of ribs cooking on the grill filled the air Saturday at the Putnam County Fairgrounds during the Tri-State Rhythm and Rib Fest.
“We’re here to defend our title,” said John Coulston with Smokin Buckeye BBQ out of Carey, as he threw several slabs of ribs on his grill. Coulston said they won the “People’s Choice” award during the 2012 Tri-State Rib Fest.
All the vendors at this year’s rib fest said they like coming to the Ottawa event.
“Everyone is so nice and friendly,” said Linda Coulston. “It’s always a nice place to come.”
She said this is the third year they have brought their ribs to Ottawa.
“The people at this festival go above and beyond to make it a nice event,” said Bruce Soberg, who was working at the Pork Brothers BBQ booth. He recalled the year when the winds blew down a lot of the tents.
“Within a short time the community came out and helped set the tents back up,” Soberg said. “This is just a great place to come.”
Vaughn Horstman said it is his sixth year to bring ribs to the Tri-State event. He owns BBQ Express in Ottoville.
“It’s always fun to talk to the people,” he said. “The vendors also have fun razzing each other during the day."
All the vendors said preparing the ribs is a lengthy process.
“I cook mine at my business in Ottoville first,” Horstman said.
He then brings his ribs to the Ottawa fairgrounds where they are seared on the grill and covered with Horstman’s special sauce.
“I started here about 5:30 a.m. this morning,” Horstman said.
Dick Schnipke, with the Red Pig Inn in Ottoville, said he started getting his ribs ready on Thursday.
“It’s a lot of work to bring everything to the event,” Schnipke said. “It’s like setting up a second kitchen.”
Schnipke said he enjoys the Ottawa event because he doesn’t have to travel far. He has been coming to the Tri-State Rhythm and Rib Fest for nine years.
“I do a lot of the work preparing the ribs ahead of time in our restaurant,” Diane Coulston said.
All the vendors said they bring more than 300 slabs of ribs to the festival each year.
“We had sold out last year by 7 p.m.” Soberg said.
The O-G Jaycees and First Federal Bank sponsored this year’s event. Activities during the day included a corn hole tournament, car show, bike giveaway and rib-eating contest. The evening entertainment included live music by the Indorfins and Mustang Sally.