MANATEE -- Kelly Getman has discovered a way to conquer the Gulf Coast Rhythm & Ribfest without wondering, “Why didn’t I eat that?”
Her solution is simple: “Try a bit at each.”
“We did three places so far,” said Getman, 32, as she shared a plate of ribs with her mother.
Unlike Getman, first-timer Rae Procyk, of Nokomis, didn’t come to the festival with any other agenda than to eat well.
“It’s really good,” she said as she polished off a plate of ribs from Porky ’n’ Beans. “When we first came in, I said, ‘Holy cow.’ How do you pick?”
Procyk eventually called her son for consultation and went with Porky ’n’ Beans based on its name and the smell of its ribs.
Knowing the competition is tough, many of the food vendors go all out for customers’ attention.
Many display their trophies in front of their stands, along with banners boasting about their awarding-winning ribs.
“We cook it better,” said Larry Murphy, owner of Camp 31, only half joking. “We cook our ribs real slow over hard wood.”
Originally from Brewton, Ala., Murphy has been selling his ribs for about 25 years around the country, and has been attending this festival since its inception five years ago.
Solomon Williams, owner of Carolina Rib King has also been selling at the event since it started.
“There are great people here,” said Williams, who also claims to have the best ribs around. “I’ve got them beat. Ours are a bit sweeter.”
But for Procyk, the festival wasn’t all about the food.
“We came to see The Outlaws,” she said.
The last time she saw the band perform was about 30 years ago during a snow storm up north.
“The weather is a lot nicer today,” she said.
People-watching and outdoor relaxation drew in lots of festival-goers Saturday. So did headliner musical act Kellie Pickler.
“We came to see Kellie Pickler and I am going to bring some ribs back for the family after,” said Joni Ramer, 50, as she ate a pulled pork sandwich from Camp 31. “It’s very tasty.”
The festival wraps up today at Manatee County Fairgrounds, 1402 14th Ave. W., Palmetto. Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets are $15, and children ages 12 and younger are free with a ticket-holding adult.
For more information, call (941) 746-7470 or www. gulfcoastribfest.com.