LIMA — Years ago, when Dan Hurst attended his first rib contest, there were nearly two dozen restaurants present but he was determined to try each one to see which had the best ribs.
Hurst took it a step further when he rated each one in order of ribs he liked the best then compared it to the score cards of the judges. The results were identical.
Since then, Hurst has become not only a rib aficionado but a certified master judge and has a professional cooking team.
“I love barbecue. I’m a huge fan of barbecue,” Hurst said.
Hurst is bringing his love of ribs to a festival Memorial Day weekend in the form of an event focusing on ribs at the Allen County Fairgrounds called Pigmania State Championship BBQ Competition and Festival.
“We thought the public and community would love to have a barbecue festival,” he said.
About 20 professional rib-cooking teams from around the United States will be competing for more than $5,000 in cash prizes. These teams use the best cuts of meat, costing twice as much as that bought at the typical supermarket, to make their ribs, Hurst said.
Professional rib cooking is sanctioned by the Kansas City BBQ Society and requires the approval of Ohio Gov. John Kasich to be labeled a state championship event. Judges come from across the country and are sanctioned by the society, he said.
The professionals cook four different types: Chicken, ribs, brisket and pulled pork. They are judged based on appearance, taste and tenderness. None of the teams are local but there will be top-ranked teams competing such as the Yellow River BBQ team out of Indiana, which ranks in the top five in the country, he said.
“There’s some really good barbecue in this country,” he said.
The event will open from 5 to 11 p.m. May 27, noon to 10 p.m. May 28, and noon to 6 p.m. May 29. The event is $5 to get in but children 12 and under enter at no cost, Hurst said.
There will be rib restaurants selling ribs. The pros may pass out some samples but cannot legally sell ribs because the sale of food requires a vendor’s license and the pros compete all over the United States making it too hard to go through various forms of paperwork and costs for numerous events each year, Hurst said.
There also will be other food vendors in case people want something other than ribs.
The festival will have live bands and events for children including a Kids Zone with pony rides and face painting. There also will be arts and crafts vendors, he said.
Reach Greg Sowinski at (567) 242-0464 or on Twitter @Lima_Sowinski.