Award-Winning Ribbers Compete At Wichita Ribfest

By: Lily Wu - Email
By: Lily Wu - Email

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Professional ribbers from around the country are competing in the first Wichita Ribfest near Intrust Bank Arena.

"I've won best sauce in America five times. I've won best ribs in America four times," said Dan Johnson, one of six competitors at Wichita Ribfest.

Johnson has won more than 500 national barbecue awards. What's the secret?

"Some people say it's the rub, some people say it's the sauce, but let me give you a secret. You know the key is the cook," said Johnson, who owns Johnson's Bar-B-Que in Virginia.

The Arkansas native has been a ribber for 26 years. He is on the road from April to October and attends more than two dozen Ribfests.

"Most people don't know what a Ribfest is. It's an event where a family can come out, inexpensively, and enjoy the best food in the whole country 'cause you've got world class cooks here," said Johnson.

With the growing popularity of Ribfests, organizers chose to bring the fest to Wichita.

"This was patterned after similar festivals all around the country. So, it's not a concept, certainly, that we made up. It's something that we were able to look at what other cities have done and tweak it to make it very Wichita," said Sarah Haertl, director of sales and marketing for Intrust Bank Arena.

The event has proven to be popular with the community. Johnson brought 75 cases of ribs. On the second day, he was down to 25.

"Good barbecue transcends states. It's good no matter where you get it," said Johnson.

He cooks the brisket for 14-15 hours to make sure it is tender, and cooks ribs for about five hours. He said the best barbecue requires hickory wood.

"You gotta have wood to make it good. I have a theory, if you're lookin', you ain't cookin'. So, we don't look at it too much. We put it on for a constant temperature and a constant time to make sure it comes out perfect," said Johnson.

The last day of the event is on Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Admission is $4 per person, with children 12 and under admitted for free.

Admission allows entrance into Wichita Ribfest and includes entertainment. Food and beverage items are available for purchase.

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