OTTAWA — Nothing says summer like enjoying a rack of barbecued ribs.
As crowds flocked to the Putnam County Fairgrounds on Saturday for the 11th annual Tri-State Rhythm and Rib Fest, the spicy scents of barbecue sauces could be picked up even at the gate. For Director Dereck Meyer, this year’s event was one of the best yet.
“We’ve got seven vendors out here today, which is the most we’ve ever had,” he said. “That’s about a perfect number given how things are set up out here. I would love to see seven out here every year.”
That record number of rib vendors was needed, given the public’s enthusiasm for the festival. Organized by the Ottawa-Glandorf Jaycees, this event can bring anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 people to the fairgrounds.
“The vendors got their grills fired up at 11 a.m. and were up and running from there, but there were actually people waiting for them to get some done,” Meyer said. “I’ve seen people walking out of here with big slabs of ribs in pizza boxes.”
Along with the ribs, there were plenty of other attractions at the festival, with cornhole tournaments, rides for the children, and plenty of live music.
“We usually just get bands from 6 to 9 p.m. and then 9 p.m. to midnight,” Meyer said. “But this year, we decided to do things a little differently. We got a local group playing in the beer tent from 1 to 3 p.m. along with another group from 3 to 5 p.m. and then at the main stage we had Never Again from 6 to 9 p.m. with Smoke N Guns on from 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.”
Michelle Moore of Ottawa’s Red Pig Inn was pleased with how the event turned out this year.
“It’s been a good crowd this afternoon,” she said. “It’s nice and steady.”
Having participated in a number of other festivals in various locations, Moore was happy to have this event at home.
“This one’s really convenient because we’re just down the road and we don’t have to pack everything up and move it very far,” she said. “Plus they have some great cold storage here, so we can just go and get fresh product as we need it.”
Being a local product could work both ways when it comes to garnering votes for the best ribs, however.
“A lot of people say, ‘Hey, we eat with you guys all the time, so we’ll try someone else,’” she said. “But people also know us. They know our meat is tender and our sauce is unique.”
While most of the vendors were relatively local, coming from such areas as Lima and Ottoville, one vendor made a long trip to get to Ottawa Saturday, coming all the way from Orville.
“I’m a full-time pipeline foreman and my partner is a full-time carpenter,” Josh Crall of After Hours Barbecue said. “So we’re just out here using up our vacation time making some money.”
After making the trip from eastern Ohio, Crall was pleased with how the Ottawa crowd responded.
“People have been coming up left and right,” he said. “At 2 p.m. we probably sold 25 or 30 racks already. It’s great.”