Madisonian Reporter Experiences Ribberfest First Hand


Ryder Jones, Staff Reporter

Ribberfest of Madison, IN

After a year of lockdown, many eagerly waited to get back out into the world and socialize with friends and families. This year, many found that Ribberfest was the perfect opportunity to do so. From people traveling hundreds of miles not only by car but also by boating on the mighty Ohio, one could say Ribberfest is one of the most popular festivals hosted in downtown Madison. Ribberfest is not just a small-town blues festival. Ribberfest has much more to offer. Some of those include various BBQ competitions for kids, amateurs, & professionals. There is also so much more to see, such as The Barbeque test tasting event for the local people.

The Performers

This year’s performers were top-rated amongst this small-town crowd, with Friday night’s Ghost Town Blues Band, Reverend Shawn Amos & The Brotherhood, and headlining England’s very own, John Mayall. The crowd was most impressive, starting bright and early. Late Saturday morning at 11:30 continued with The “Famous” Amy Noel Band. Shortly after with The Revelators, Jay Jesse Johnson, The Joe Louis Walker Band with special guest Bruce Katz, and Shemekia Copeland. Finally, reigning in the night, headliner Tab Benoit. 

Barbeque Events

There are two main barbeque events hosted at Ribberfest. The first is the barbeque taste-testing, where judges decide on numerous factors on which barbeque is the best and most flavorful. The second event included a food-eating contest over barbequed ribs. These yummy ribs slabs used during the barbeque eating contest are made by Off the Bone Barbeque. They come from Texas and have been in the barbeque and food industry since they were established in 2006. This contest went down in a matter of minutes; the first-place winner finished off his ribs in a wild 40 seconds. The top four contestants were Hank the Tank McCracken (First Place), followed by Rico Flores, and third-place winner Dan Harper. However, in fourth place was yours truly, Ryder Jones; I came in 4th place out of a dozen people with no experience eating competitive food. This was by far the most exciting event not only because the crowd was going wild, but I got to be a part of it all and to witness it up in the front of the stage in front of a huge audience.

Ribberfest Pigmania

Pigmania is an amazing way for high school graduating seniors to earn scholarships for their entrance to college and farthing their academic education. Where local businesses rent a pig and then decorate their pig in whichever fashion and style they choose, The committee then votes on the winning pig to win the Pigmania Scholarship Fund. However, the main focus is the actual scholarship is to help out the graduating seniors and provide them with an opportunity to further their academic education at the college level. The business begins decorating the pigs for Pigmania around the end of the high school year to get a head start for the competition. The hogs are gigantic. They weigh about 300 to 400 pounds. To decide the winner of Pigmania, the committee comes together and marks down all the money and coins dropped in the pig’s collecting can. There are two different types of winners.

Madison Ribberfest Pigmania committee chair Tim Chandler stated, “There is a voter winner chosen by the Ribberfest people which is won by the most money collected in the cans. There is a judges’ winner where the Ribberfest committee comes together and picks their personal favorite. The judges’ winner, however, gets a Pigmania Trophy where it gets displayed in business. The T=trophy is current held in the local restaurant called Taproom, located in downtown Madison, IN.

Chandler also doubles on the golf cart committee used during Ribberfest.

Start of a Tradition in Madison, IN

Dave Butler, a well-known, retired oral surgeon who has spent many years with the Madison Ribberfest committee. However, instead of picking teeth, Butler picks performers for the local venue. Butler gathers top-rated, well-known artists nationwide to perform at Ribberfest. Along with the managing of stage lighting, sound, and backlighting of the overall stage,Butler is also responsible for putting together the food requirements along with numerous BBQ competitions along with Jeff Garret, the man responsible for the creation of the Madison Ribberfest.

Walking the riverfront of Ribberfest, I interviewed more and more locals walking the streets of Ribberfest. Along the way, I stumbled upona group of friends named Cheryl, Kallie, and Lisa. The trio has been attending Ribberfest continuously since 2010. They love this particular event for the lovely and exciting Blues music that can be heard for miles, but also for the great barbeque and drinks. They love the atmosphere of Ribberfest, the socializing part of the event, especially to see people again after the long pandemic; they informed me it’s a great way to make new friends and become a part of something special.