Legendary hip-hop star helps keep Palmetto Ribfest 'Fresh'

rdymond@bradenton.comApril 14, 2014 

PALMETTO -- The man known as the Human Beat Box, rapper Doug E. Fresh, had the crowd up on its feet Sunday as the cooks were preparing to feed them after all that exercise.

Fresh showed off his ability to grab an audience during the finale of the Gulf Coast Rhythm & Ribfest at the Manatee County Fairgrounds in Palmetto.

"He's genuine old school," said Ribfest worker Carlton Evans of the 47-year-old Fresh, who was part of the Get Fresh Crew in the mid-1980s.

At one point Fresh drew on rapper V.I.C.'s "Wobble Baby" from 2011 and had the Fairgrounds' Mosaic Arena rocking. People were doing the "Wobble Baby" line dance together led by Fresh, who is from Harlem.

"He knows how to engage the crowd," said fan Drena Green. "He goes back to the initial creation of hip-hop when the rhymes were about life's everyday experiences, things we can all relate to. He raps on the spot and not from a script. I think we saw that tonight."

Fresh is closing in on 50, but his beats had Robyn Wiggs from Tampa dancing all by herself, lost in the music. At the high point of Fresh's performance, his beats even got Shirley Jenkins, a senior Ribfest worker, dancing on the ramp to the organizer's headquarters.

The festivities ended at 7 p.m. after T Pain entertained for the final two hours.

Ribfest officials estimated the three-day crowd will exceed 10,000 when the count is complete.

The lip-smacking ribs were also a high point of the weekend show as customers such as Nikki Williams, 29, and Tericka Keno, 27, of Bradenton, lined up to buy them from J & J Bar-B-Que for about $15 a plate, including greens and homemade macaroni and cheese.

T & L's Bar-B-Q of Bradenton also had faithful customers as did Carolina Rib King, Camp 31, Johnson's Hickory Smoked Bar-B-Q and BBQ Masters.

"Lots of secret ingredients," said Terry Mann of J & J Bar-B-Q when asked what made his ribs so tasty.

Mann prepared slabs under the watchful eyes of John McKinney, owner of J & J (which stands for John and Julius, John's dad).

After Mann prepared the trays, McKinney cooked, Jessica Glover dished out the sides and Glynis Davis sliced the ribs with a sharp knife. Glover is following in the footsteps of her father, Jerome, who worked for McKinney for many years.

"I love the Ribfest," a smiling Jessica Glover said. "You meet a lot of nice people and see your old friends."

But McKinney said crowds were surprisingly a little off from previous years.

"It hasn't been as great as in past years," McKinney said. "The economy is getting better so I really don't know why."

As usual, the Ribfest is a place to see friends and make new friends and check out the fashionistas.

Previa Harris from Sarasota wore black Converse sneakers with aqua green laces and an aqua green top to match the laces. Her sister, Ashley Neal, wore a black-and-gold blouse with eagles and stars and had high Timberline tan leather boots. The girls also wore high-waisted shorts.

"We heard about the Ribfest on Facebook," Harris said.

Many of crowd were from Tampa such as Brandy Jenkins, who said she saw it in a newspaper ad, and Kristiaan Gaines and Camille Plummer, who said they heard about it on the radio.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.

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