Food lovers have no bone to pick with Western Pennsylvania Rib Fest
Pit master Ron Conaway has his eyes on the prize at this weekend's Western Pennsylvania Rib Fest.
He and his wife, Valerie, who hail from Willis, Texas, have won awards from Ashtabula, Ohio, to Wilmington, N.C., for their smoked ribs, which aren't just good, according to Ron; they're “lip smackin', tongue teasin', belly rubbin', bone lickin' good.”
Ron says good barbecue is all in the sauce, and in these parts, the local preference is for a caramelized sauce, producing the sticky, sweet taste that folks in Western Pennsylvania love. Most ribbers, himself included, serve St. Louis ribs because they are meatier than baby backs, with a little more fat for a lot more flavor.
He's not sure yet how much product he'll be bringing to the Westmoreland venue, but for another regional show he does at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh during the Labor Day weekend, he'll truck in 150 cases of ribs, with 12 slabs per case. He also will be cooking pulled-pork, chicken, riblet patties and brisket, which he says is “true Texas barbecue.”
Ron figures he has won 300 to 400 awards and has “a semi-trailer full” of trophies for his efforts. He proudly displays his titles and awards on a huge sign board posted to the front of his booth.
The Conaways and their Texas Pit Barbecue will be one of six national rib vendors competing for best ribs, best sauce and people's choice honors in the Rib Fest at Westmoreland Fairgrounds. Also in contention are Armadillo's, Smokin' Joe's Hog Wild Barbeque, Sticky Ribs BBQ, Archie's Barbeque and Desperado's BBQ & Rib Co.
Desperado's owner Donna Rice of Hinkley, Ohio, and her husband, Lee, will visit some 25 rib festivals across the country from now until Labor Day, when they'll participate in the annual Nugget Casino RibFest in Reno, Nev. She says their variety of sauces — Sweet and Smokey, Hotter than “H” and Original BBQ — is what makes Desperado's ribs the best.
“With three different sauces, you can appeal to people all over the country,” she says. “You can mix and match the sauces to your taste. The possibilities are endless.”
Desperado's has won more than 300 first-place awards for their ribs. The couple has been traveling the rib festival circuit since 1988 and each year is special to Donna.
“I always say it's like a family reunion, when you get to see people you haven't seen for a year,” she says. “It's a neat thing.”
To complement the barbecue, the Rib Fest also will feature specialty food vendors offering festival favorites such as pierogies, fried veggies, nachos and cheese, French fries, deep-fried Oreos, soft-serve ice cream and more.
Beverages will be handled by the Mt. Pleasant Firemen's Club, sponsor of the Beer Garden, offering four brands of beer. For those who'd rather pair their ribs with wine, more than 40 varieties from six wineries will be available in the wine pavilion.
Continuous entertainment will feature headline performer Fran Cosmo, former lead singer of Boston, and his band at 8 p.m. June 27. Also performing will be Switch, NoMAD, Gashouse Annie & Abilene, Saddle Up and Hillbilly Way on June 28, and Second Wind, Hamilton Avenue, Jill West and Blues Attack and Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers on June 29.
Rib Fest also will include an arts-and-crafts marketplace and Kid's Zone children's activities, including a rock-climbing wall, bungee jump and animal scooters.
Plans are already under way to make this an annual event at the fairgrounds, says promoter Kelly Simon, who organized this event after doing a rib festival in Ohio last year.
Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- With Malkin out, Penguins fall to Flyers, 4-1
- Authorities release name of Greensburg man who jumped off overpass onto Route 30
- Former Plum teacher says he warned district about possible inappropriate conduct
- Pirates notebook: Richard doesn’t exercise opt-out clause in contract
- Pirates’ McCutchen leaves game early, says he is not hurt
- Pirates planning on maximizing the versatility of Rodriguez
- Steelers re-sign DE Geathers
- A mayor and his dog: Peduto adopts from Western Pennsylvania Humane Society
- Jeannette teen ordered to stand trial in classmate’s slaying
- Wines claimed to be toxic with arsenic won’t be pulled by state Liquor Control Board
- Time catches up with longstanding Port Vue group