Great food and great music highlight Palmetto festival

The Gulf Coast Rhythm & Ribfest award-winning ribs and musicians

mclear@bradenton.comApril 10, 2014 

It's called the Gulf Coast Rhythm & Ribfest, or Ribfest for short.

But over the years, the event has attracted such a impressive lineups of big-name music acts that the rhythm sometimes gets more attention than the ribs.

This year's Ribfest is slated for Friday through Sunday at the Manatee County Fairgrounds in Palmetto. And, as always, there's a lot of great music ahead.

Among the headliners: Tracy Lawrence on Friday night, Lyfe Jennings and Musiq Soulchild on Saturday and Doug E. Fresh and T-Pain on Sunday.

It's a more varied lineup than in some previous years. In 2013, the entertainment lineup at the Gulf Coast Rhythm and Ribfest was dominated by classic rock acts.

The music's all country Friday, with local favorites One Night Rodeo opening for Lawrence. Saturday is R&B flavored, and Sunday has an urban tinge.

But the ribs are there every day, and they're prepared by some of the best rib cooks from around Florida.

The ribmasters at this year's Ribfest have earned such awards as "Greatest Ribs in America," "Golden Ribs Award," "Best Sauce in the Nation" and numerous People's Choice Awards. And the ribmasters who earned "Best Ribs" and "Best Sauce" honors at last year's Ribefst will be back again this year to defend their titles.

There's also an Interactive Kid's Fun Zone with games, rides, prizes, and live entertainment.

But there's a reason the music gets so much attention at Ribfest every year, and this year has some of the best ever, including several Grammy nominees.

Country star Tracy Lawrence has been making hit records since the early 1990s, and he's responsible for some of the biggest country hits from that decade, including "Sticks and Stones," "Alibis" and "Time Marches On." His last number-one hit was "Find Out Who Your Friends Are."

Grammy nominees Lyfe Jennings and Musiq Soulchild are both among of the biggest acts in contemporary R&B. Jennings is known for songs with a social conscience. Among his biggest hits are "Busty" and "Statistics," both from 2010.

Soulchild has been nominated for Grammy Awards 11 times, including five for Best R&B Male Vocal Performance.

On Sunday, Doug E. Fresh, the old-school rapper and "human beatbox," performs before T-Pain, the popular rapper who won Grammy Awards for collaborations with Jamie Foxx and Kanye West.

This will be the eighth annual edition of the Rhythm & Ribfest. Organizers say it's grown steadily over the years, and now draws about 20,000 people over the three days of the festival.

Here's the complete entertainment lineup:

Friday

6 p.m.: One Night Rodeo

8:30 p.m.: Tracy Lawrence

Saturday

2 p.m.: NuJazz

3 p.m.: Impulse

4:30 p.m.: BK Jackson

6:30 p.m.: Lyfe Jennings

8:30 p.m.: Musiq Soulchild

Sunday

2 p.m.: Trinity 7

4 p.m.: Doug E. Fresh

5:30 p.m.: T-Pain

Details: Gulf Coast Rhythm and Ribfest, Manatee County Fairgrounds, 1303 17th St. W., Palmetto. Hours: 5-10 p.m. Friday, noon-10 p.m. Saturday and noon-7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $15 Friday, $20 Saturday and Sunday. $30 two-day passes are offered. Children age 12 and younger are admitted free with an adult. There are also several VIP packages available at www.gulfcoastribfest.com. Tickets can also be purchased at Circle K stores and at the gate.

Marty Clear, features writer/colunist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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