Rookies and veterans on the row at RibFest

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – It’s one of several festivals that have become a tradition in downtown Fort Wayne and it just so happens that this one focuses on barbecue. It’s the 17th year for BBQ RibFest at Headwaters Park.

Desperado’s has been there, in the same spot, for all 17 years.

“We were looking for places to go, places to make money, places to meet people and we love it,” Donna Rice, Desperado’s owner, said. “We had these humongous lines. They weren’t buying little tasters, either. They were buying full slabs, half slabs, a slab and a half. It was awesome. We wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Desperado’s travels for six months of the year to around 20 rib festivals across the country. Their home base is in Cleveland, Ohio and Rice said Fort Wayne will always be a stop on her list.

“You guys are awesome. You love your barbecue,” she said. “We’re the big dogs. We’re here four days out of the year and we use it to make money to go to the next show.”

At the other end of the strip, Red Rok is set up for its first year at RibFest.

“Who wouldn’t want to be part of RibFest this year? This is what we do. We’re a barbecue restaurant and this is an awesome venue to come and promote our restaurant and compete,” Red Rok Onwer Chris Wilson said.

Red Rok’s been open at The Landing on Columbia Street for about a year.

“We haven’t done a ton of advertising,” Wilson said. “You get a lot of people who eat barbecue out here and see us and didn’t know about us and hopefully we gain some great customers from that. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback and people who said they didn’t know we were downtown and they’re going to frequent us now.”

RibFest is open until midnight Friday and Saturday and until around 9 p.m. Sunday. It opens at 11:30 a.m. every day. Admission is free until 5:30 p.m. every day. Then it’s $7 for adults, $5 seniors and $4 for students, military, fire and police with ID.

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