Some like 'em spicy, some like 'em tangy, and others may prefer their ribs slathered in classic barbecue sauce, but at Naperville's Ribfest, one will prevail.
Rib judging is a subjective process that's been brought to a science by groups like the Kansas City Barbecue Society and employed each year in Naperville to pick winners in three categories: best ribs, best sauce and kids' choice.
The taste buds of 32 adults and eight kids will decide which vendors brought the best flavor in a judging session Saturday morning.
The tasting takes place before the park opens at noon, but visitors can learn the results during an award ceremony between 3 and 4 p.m. in Knoch Park at West Street and Martin Avenue.
Scheduling the judging on Saturday instead of the usual Sunday gives visitors more time to taste meaty and saucy goodness from the vendors declared winners before the 26th annual fest comes to a close, said Lori Klemm, a volunteer in charge of rib judging.
"We wanted to give the rib vendors an opportunity to share in the glory of their winnings with extra sales," Klemm said.
Before anyone gets any glory, judges will convene under a large tent to rate the ribs on a 1 to 7 scale in terms of appearance, taste and tenderness. They have been asked not to wear cologne or perfume, smoke or drink alcohol beforehand.
"There is a demeanor involved with the process," Klemm said. "We don't want outside influences."
Following some Kansas City Barbecue Society rules, but not all of them, judges also are asked to follow their personal preferences without imposing their taste on others as they try to choose the best from the 13 vendors attending this year's fest.
It's a crowded field of judges this year, the largest group Ribfest has had, Klemm said. That may be good news for the festival's collection of funds to support groups working against child abuse, as it means this year's event has more sponsors than in the past.
Each year, the Naperville mayor, a military veteran, and Naperville's police officer and firefighter of the year are given spots as rib judges, as are companies that sponsor the fest with funds or services.
"We had more sponsors come in with more money, and that's how we thank them," Klemm said.
The top three vendors in each category will be announced and trophies will be awarded for the winners to display in their booths. It truly is up to the judges' taste buds, as Klemm said there isn't a perennial favorite.
"It's always somebody new who wins," she said.