BELOIT - The tangy aroma of barbecued ribs filled the air on Saturday as Beloit's 10th Annual Ribfest drew in a hungry crowd on The Rock Bar & Grill grounds.
Participants purchased tickets and then were treated to sample ribs from 10 booths, enjoy live music from the band Switchtrack Alley and take in the pleasant weather.
"Awesome," said Nick Najdanovich, when asked to describe the flavor of the rib he was devouring.
The fest lets local chefs, regional cooks and others show off their grilling/barbecuing skills all in good-natured competition for a community cause.
Proceeds from the event benefit Beloit Regional Hospice, an affiliate of Beloit Health System.
"It's an amazing fundraiser for hospice," said Allison McCawley, as she made her way around to the teams of contestants.
Ribfest was begun by Brian Mark, owner of Brian Mark Funeral Home.
"When we moved here 11 years ago, there wasn't a rib-type event," he said. "I thought there should be."
Mark said The Rock Bar & Grill is one of the event sponsors and donates the facility and containers.
"The entire event is run by donations," he said.
Several local sponsors help to make the annual event happen.
Mark described Ribfest as a fun time that people look forward to each year.
Tom Finley, head chef of the Burning Desire rib team, offered a few pointers for the success of his offerings over the years.
"I have no secrets, just Webers," he said of the seven grills lined up. I also have the Tommy rub, a sweet, spicy rib rub."
Finley said he also enjoyed the contest and the camaraderie.
"It's a great group of guys and all the cooks donate everything," he said.
Beloit Regional Hospice Director Deidre Bennett said Ribfest has a dual purpose.
"For the community, it's a chance to have fun. For us, the event allows us to treat folks regardless of their pay source," Bennett said. "It's just a fun day. Our weather is usually awesome and people come and cook and have a little competition as well as enjoy the music and the food."
During the event, a team of judges samples each cook's fare and then scores it. Trophies are given to the highest scorers.
First place for sauce this year went to High Goals Incorporated, pitmaster Robert Coleman; second place to Porkin Ain't Easy, pitmaster Mike Hall; and third place to Beloit Firefighters Local #583, pitmaster Shawn Eberdt.
First place for ribs went to Beloit Firefighters Local #583; second place to Brian Mark Funeral Homes, pitmaster Mike Mark; and third place to Higher Goals Incorporated.
The People's Choice also went to Higher Goals Incorporated.
After the event, Brian Mark said the day went well.
"It was a good group of people and there was good weather," he said.
Hospice care is designed to provide support to caregivers and their loved ones during an advanced illness through medical, spiritual and emotional support services.