Hours before the main bands of the night drew crowds to Ribfest in Naperville, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" star Ty Pennington attracted hundreds of fans to a tent where he was busy posing for photos and offering grilling advice.
The Sears Grilling is Happiness campaign brought Pennington and other grilling experts to Ribfest for an afternoon of smiling for photos, signing autographs and discussing the art of grilling.
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Pennington couldn't get to the grilling tent soon enough for Debbie Burke of Downers Grove, who tracked the designer and TV host down just after he offered a welcome to visitors on Ribfest's main stage.
"I waited all week for this," Burke said as she alerted friends about her brush with celebrity and posted her photo to Facebook. "He's so personable. He's brilliant."
Pennington's appearance was enough to bring Burke to Ribfest on Saturday for the first time. After meeting the star, she said she planned to stay to experience some music and the festival's famous ribs.
The chance to meet Pennington also motivated Wanona Rex of Homewood to make the drive to the Naperville festival with her daughter, Eliza, 10, who watches "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" weekly and passionately.
"I like how they help people make their homes," Eliza said about the show.
Rex said she wanted to surprise her daughter with a photo op and autograph from Pennington, and Saturday's event gave her the perfect chance.
"She didn't tell me where we were going," Eliza said, confirming the surprise plan worked.
Delighted after posing for a picture with Pennington, Eliza said the memento soon will make its way to her bedroom wall -- framed.
The Sears Grilling is Happiness Tent located on the South end of Knoch Park near the row of ribbers, also offered the chance to sign up for a contest to win a grill or other prizes.