By Emre K. Erku
Special to The Free Press
---- — It’s time once again to get your lips and hips ready for saucy ribs and live tunes.
Mankato is hosting the 16th annual RibFest at Riverfront Park beginning Thursday.
The event, which exceeded 22,000 in attendance over its four days last year, combines an assortment of multi-platinum selling musical groups, national rockers and homegrown bands with a handful of competitive barbecue outfits from around the country.
“It’s just a good summertime event for Mankato,” said Eric Jones, marketing manager for the Verizon Wireless Center since 2002. “It’s quite busy, and it’s quite successful.”
In the spring of each year, it’s up to Jones to find performers that will be near location during the August event.
Thanks to his efforts, national acts such as the country group Blackhawk, '90s alternative band Everclear and the headband-wearing members of Loverboy were booked accordingly to perform on the stage of the Vetter Stone Amphitheater.
“It’s all about timing and who’s going to be in the area,” Jones said. “It doesn’t work if they’re on the West Coast.”
Besides selecting the headliners, there is a tradition of selecting local bands to perform as well.
"We try to always get locals to fill out the national acts,” Jones said.
Of course, RibFest is about more than music. Five “ribbers” from around the country will be competing for cash prizes — including Big Boned Barbeque, the South Carolina-based barbecue team operated by Minnesota State University graduate and former collegiate wrestler Pat Nelson.