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Coming in hot: City of Buckhannon to sponsor May 1 Rib Fest

BUCKHANNON – Make no bones about it – the Almost Heaven Rib Fest is coming to downtown Buckhannon in May, and the City of Buckhannon is an official sponsor.

Residents and visitors alike can whet their appetites for barbecue more than a month before the 2021 Almost Heaven BBQ Bash slated to take place June 18-19 at Stonewall Resort with a smaller scale event Saturday May 1 at the Bicentennial Inn Saturday, May 1. Not only will the event feature barbecue teams from across the county competing in two Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned rib contests, barbecue rib dinners will be served up to the general public via outdoor dining or carryout.

Jody Light and DeAnna Grogg, organizers of the BBQ Bash, appeared before Buckhannon City Council at its April 1 meeting to brief city officials on the event and see if they’d be interested in becoming a sponsor. Light said once West Virginia Governor Jim Justice OK’ed fairs and festivals to resume May 1, she and her team began planning a mini fundraising version of the June 18-19 event.

“What started out as, ‘we’ll get some little backyard teams from West Virginia to come in’ has really grown quickly,” Light told council. “All at once things have started happening. We got a call from one of the top teams in Tennessee, which is coming, two from Virginia, two or three from West Virginia, a fellow from Charlotte, North Carolina and Pittsburgh.”

But event organizers were thrilled when a highly skilled barbecue master from Corpus Christie, Texas who competes in KCBS-sanctioned events across the U.S. – Redmules Badass BBQ – called Light to say he was coming to Upshur County.

“He is No. 2 in the United States in points standing in ribs, and he is coming here and bringing some of his family members,” Light said.

Light said the BBQ Bash is partnering with the Buckhannon-Upshur Retail Merchants Association, BURMA, and several local businesses, including Hippie Dippie Donuts from Lewis County, Zul’s and Sweet-A-Licious to make the event a fun, family-friendly – and delicious – day for all. They day will feature bingo, cornhole and an array of kids’ activities.

“It’s just going to be a day of fun we hope for families, a beautiful day to kick off spring, and it just coincides with the day the governor gave us the all clear,” Light said. “If there’s any finances you can let loose of to help us stay solvent this time, we’d be appreciative of it, but it’s going to happen one way or another – but the big thing is, people have been asking ‘where can we get barbecue? We want barbecue.’”

Rib Fest has got barbecue fans covered because from 4-7 p.m. that day, the public can pre-order, dine outside or carryout barbecue rib dinners, prepped by some of the competing teams squaring off earlier that day.

“We’ll have dine-in, or you can go behind the Bicentennial, pre-order your meal and just drive through, so that way, the elderly can pick up meals and they don’t even have to stop,” Light said. “We’re just kind of excited – this may turn into something. We were thinking we could even do [another Rib Fest] in the fall if it’s supported by the community and the city and maybe make it a semi-annual spring and fall event.”

Councilman Jack Reger asked how much financial support the BBQ Bash was requesting, and Light suggested the city sponsor cash prizes and trophies, which would cost about $2,000 to $2,500.

Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner encouraged council get on board with barbecue.

“I think bringing a barbecue event back to town is a step in the right direction,” Skinner said. “I’d like for the city to be supportive all the way around with this, so I think $2,000 or $2,500 is a good contribution for us to consider, and I think it would certainly help with their expenses.”

Councilman CJ Rylands made a motion to contribute $2,000, which was seconded by councilwoman Mary Albaugh, who also noted the city’s in-kind contributions via clean-up, Volunteers in Police Service crowd control coverage and more. The motion passed unanimously.

Light thanked council.

“Thank you very, very much – we hope it will make you proud, and we’d love to see you all down there for some barbecue,” she said.

To pre-order a barbecue rib meal or learn more about the May 1 Rib Fest or June 18-19 BBQ Bash, click here.

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