The Free Press, Mankato, MN

August 5, 2013

RibFest: Great weather, record crowds

Adrian Peterson unscheduled final-day attraction at Ribfest

By Mark Fischenich mfischenich@mankatofreepress.com
The Mankato Free Press

---- — After four days of beautiful weather and big crowds, Mankato RibFest organizer Burt Lyman was happy.

After attending three of the four days and enjoying the music, the beer and the companionship, RibFest fan Robert Stevenson of North Mankato was happy.

And after winning the People’s Choice Award and the Adrian Peterson choice award, the staff at Texas Thunder BBQ was doubly happy.

“Mankato, we love you,” shouted Texas Thunder grill-master Curtis House and Texas Thunder BBQ Team leader Nikki Haggerty after winning the most votes among the half-dozen ribbers selling at the event.

Moments earlier, House and Haggerty were feeling the love of Peterson, the Vikings MVP running back who wandered down to Ribfest on the team’s day off from their Mankato training camp. Peterson, accompanied by wide receiver Jarius Wright and couple of other Vikings, chose Texas Thunder.

Haggerty, despite being a Dallas Cowboys fan, had nonetheless used her visit to Minnesota to purchase a No.-28 Peterson jersey for her 5-year-old son, Austin. Then, when Peterson walked up to her barbecue booth, she had a chance to ask him to autograph it.

“They were so genuinely nice,” she said of Peterson and his teammates. “They overpaid for their food. They were super-sweet.”

For the record, last-year’s 2,000-yard rusher might be throwing a couple of extra pounds at opposing linebackers this year after purchasing a beef-brisket sandwich, a side of macaroni and cheese and an order of ribs.

House — a St. Louis resident who has been making the trip to Mankato for years to cook at the Texas Thunder booth — got his picture taken with the Vikings and made one request of the team that ended the Rams’ play-off hopes last year with a 36-22 victory.

“I said, I just want to ask you guys to do me a favor ... take it easy on the Rams,” House said.

The Vikings didn’t stay for the Mary Jane Alm Band, Sunday’s music headliner, but hundreds of others did. Stevenson was back after attending Thursday for Black Hawk and Saturday for Loverboy.

“Good crowds. The music is good. The Big Boned rocks,” said Stevenson, differing with Peterson about the best rib stand to visit.

He said the Saturday night crowd for Loverboy somewhat overwhelmed the beer stands and the portable toilets, but he praised RibFest’s move from downtown to Riverfront Park, saying he didn’t miss the heat reflecting off the downtown asphalt a bit.

Lyman, who as executive director of the Verizon Wireless Center is in charge of the city-sponsored RibFest, pretty much echoed Stevenson’s review of the 16th annual event.

“Obviously Mother Nature cooperated,” Lyman said. “... It’s been the best weather we’ve ever had.”

Attendance figures won’t be calculated for another day or two, but Lyman expects every night may have set a record for that particular night and Saturday set the overall record for biggest RibFest crowd. He agreed that the lines for beverages and for toilets got a bit too long, even though organizers thought they were more than ready for a huge Saturday night crowd.

“They just kept coming and coming,” Lyman said.

As for the rainless, lightning-free, 70-something-degree weather, Lyman may have figured out the secret. For the first time, he bought rain insurance prior to this year’s RibFest. He won’t be collecting a dime of payment from the insurer, and that might make him happiest of all.

“I’ll be buying it every year,” he said.