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updated: 7/3/2014 4:47 PM

Plenty of firsts as 27th Naperville Ribfest opens

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  • Alyssa Smith, 9, of Plainfield, bites into a rib Thursday during the opening day of the 27th annual Naperville Exchange Club Ribfest.

       Alyssa Smith, 9, of Plainfield, bites into a rib Thursday during the opening day of the 27th annual Naperville Exchange Club Ribfest.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Shawn Rodgers, left, of Bloomingdale, and Huy Tran, of Naperville, gather ribs for co-workers on Thursday during an annual visit to the Naperville Exchange Club's Ribfest.

       Shawn Rodgers, left, of Bloomingdale, and Huy Tran, of Naperville, gather ribs for co-workers on Thursday during an annual visit to the Naperville Exchange Club's Ribfest.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Charles Robinson, owner of Robinson's No. 1 Ribs, tends to his ribs Thursday during the opening day of the 27th annual Naperville Exchange Club's Ribfest. Although some vendors use rotisseries, Robinson likes to use an old-fashioned smoker. "We like to smoke them for seven or eight hours on the old-time smoker. It tastes better, I think," he said.

       Charles Robinson, owner of Robinson's No. 1 Ribs, tends to his ribs Thursday during the opening day of the 27th annual Naperville Exchange Club's Ribfest. Although some vendors use rotisseries, Robinson likes to use an old-fashioned smoker. "We like to smoke them for seven or eight hours on the old-time smoker. It tastes better, I think," he said.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Bill and Kristi Brice drove from Valparaiso, Indiana, to try out ribs Thursday during the opening day of Naperville's Ribfest.

       Bill and Kristi Brice drove from Valparaiso, Indiana, to try out ribs Thursday during the opening day of Naperville's Ribfest.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Lauren Jaskier, 7, of Lombard, tries out her gymnastics skills Thursday on the Euro Bungee during the opening day of the Naperville Exchange Club's Ribfest.

       Lauren Jaskier, 7, of Lombard, tries out her gymnastics skills Thursday on the Euro Bungee during the opening day of the Naperville Exchange Club's Ribfest.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Opening day visitors gather near the so-called Ribber Row on Thursday as the 27th annual Naperville Exchange Club Ribfest gets going.

       Opening day visitors gather near the so-called Ribber Row on Thursday as the 27th annual Naperville Exchange Club Ribfest gets going.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • The carnival gets in full swing Thursday shortly after the 27th annual Ribfest in Naperville opened its gates for the first time.

       The carnival gets in full swing Thursday shortly after the 27th annual Ribfest in Naperville opened its gates for the first time.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Ribfest opens in Naperville

 
 

Naperville's Ribfest celebration opened for its 27th year Thursday, but there were still plenty of firsts for visitors hungry for a rack of ribs and a great time:

There were, for example, the first chords by performers in one of the festival's 45 bands.

The first trips on rides like "Dragon Wagon" and the first pops of balloons in carnival games.

The first steps to mat down Knoch Park walking paths that surely will be nothing but dead grass by festival's end.

The first free samples of Post cereals and Sparkling Ice flavored waters and Haribo gummy bears and more.

Opening as the noon lunch hour struck near downtown, visitors faced their first tough decisions choosing between ribbers with names like Howling Coyote and Armadillo's.

The first lunch rush for all 12 ribbers included Ribfest newbies such as Giovanni Romo, 11, and his 12-year-old brother, Antonio, whose uncle brought them from Gilberts to give the slow-smoked meat a try.

"Really good" was the brothers' rating of the ribs they sampled from Desperado's BBQ and Rib Co., which was also where co-workers Huy Tran and Shawn Rodgers from Fieldglass in Naperville bought their first feast of this year's festival.

"We like the name," Tran said about their ribber of choice.

As festivalgoers entered the grounds, the first of 4,000 volunteers took the first admission passes, sold the first beer tickets, removed the first bags of trash, made the first calls on their walkie-talkies and applied their first layer of sunscreen.

The first volunteer shifts worked by employees of Teen Parent Connection in Glen Ellyn, including parent group facilitator Arianna Carlson, helped hand out the first Child ID wristbands to youngsters whose parents provided a cellphone number in case their child gets lost.

"It's a great opportunity to get involved in the community," said Carlson, who helped out at the fest for the first time Thursday.

Sales people from Ford, Jeep and Chrysler made their first pitches, and people walking past the business expo took the first spins on a coupon wheel set up by first-time Ribfest exhibitor Standard Market.

The Westmont-based grocer opened its second location in May not far from the Ribfest grounds on Aurora Avenue in Naperville. On Thursday, the first spinners claimed coupons for free gelato, free coffee or 10 percent off deli items.

"Almost everybody who walks by wants to spin the wheel," Mike Hall, customer service manager, said. "Even the kids are getting into it, which is cool."

Kids at their first Ribfest, such as Connor Davis, 11, and RJ Sales, 10, won their first prizes of the holiday weekend -- in their case, one goldfish each, by tossing Ping- Pong balls into small cups of water.

Sponsored by the Naperville Exchange Club, Ribfest continues from noon to 10 p.m. each day through Sunday at Knoch Park near Martin Avenue and West Street. Admission is $10 for those 12 and older from noon to 3 p.m., and $15 later in the day.

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