Rib lovers, rejoice! Summer is the time for cooking outdoors, which lends itself perfectly to barbecue. If you're hankering for award-winning meat from around the nation, Lake in the Hills Rockin' Ribfest is the place to be this weekend.
For the sixth year, Ribfest will be raising money for Lake in the Hills Rotary Club, a service organization dedicated to change both at the local and global levels. Jim Wales, Ribfest chairman and LITH Rotary president, said Ribfest typically raises about $100,000 for the club, which it in turn puts toward service projects.
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If you goWhat: Lake in the Hills Rockin' Ribfest
When: 4:30-11 p.m. Thursday, July 5, and Friday, July 6; 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, July 7; 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday, July 8
Where: Sunset Park, 5200 Miller Road, Lake in the Hills
Admission: $5 for ages 13 and older, free for 12 and younger if accompanied by adult, free with current military I.D.
Details: Visit lithribfest.com or call (847) 742-3378
"The whole idea of Rotary is to give back to the community, both locally and globally to make the world a better place," he said. "To accomplish this, we didn't want to do a smaller fundraiser every other month, so Ribfest was born."
Wales said he hopes to break last year's previous records of attendance and fundraising, and with eight rib vendors and more food vendors to boot, Rotary may raise more than ever before.
The eight rib vendors, most from the Midwest, travel to many ribfests each summer, collecting awards for their spices, sauces and meaty creations along the way. One such restaurant, Texas Outlaw Barbecue in Elizabethtown, Ky., has won more than 500 best-in-show awards over 18 years in business. Steve Vaughn, general manager of Texas Outlaw, knows there are a lot of award-winning rib joints, but challenges Ribfest visitors to find a better meat.
"You won't find a bad rib here, but we do tend to think we're the best," he said. "People are very receptive to us. There's just a friendliness and good nature of people who come out to Ribfest."
Vaughn said the secret to ribs that are both tender and tasty is the "low and slow" method, rather than boiling the meat in an effort to tenderize.
"We've got a good spice, a good sauce and a good slow smoke," he said. "We put a lot of tender loving care into our ribs."
Jay Rushford, operations director of Uncle Bub's BBQ in Westmont, agreed, saying spending quality time with the ribs is the best method of cooking. He hopes to impart his love of hardwood-smoked ribs on fellow barbecue lovers at Ribfest.
"Ribfests are fun because they're the only kind of summer festival where food is a main part of the entertainment," he said. "People who are into ribs can come and try ribs from the best rib cooks in the entire country."
And while barbecue enthusiasts munch on award-winning ribs or pulled-pork and brisket sandwiches, they can peruse the other part of the entertainment for the weekend, including 10 local bands and a classic car show on Saturday. The event, sponsored in part by Miller Lite, will have no shortage of beer either, with two beer tents on the grounds at Sunset Park.
Wales said he hopes the fun atmosphere will draw people in, but they will also stay to learn about Rotary's mission. Most recently, Lake in the Hills Rotary dedicated its global mission to a Mayan village in Guatemala, building a sustainable way to encourage the region's tilapia fish population, while also fertilizing vegetables.
"It's not about giving them fish to eat, but giving them the tools to grow that fish to eat for themselves," he said.
And while Rotary is not extending its mission in the Central American nation, it is encouraging other local service clubs to join together. To entice the more than 100 volunteers it takes to put on Ribfest, for example, Rotary is giving local scouting groups and church youth groups $5 per person per service hour.
"There's just something to be said about making the world a better place, whether it be 10 miles away or 100 miles away," he said.
Ribfest opens at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, July 5, at Sunset Park, 5200 Miller Road, and runs through Sunday, July 8. For a full schedule of Ribfest activities, visit lithribfest.com.